There are a few guys in the NBA who we know are total nerds off the court. Chris Bosh, for one. All the guys who make their own web series are probably computer dorks. Pau Gasol is another one, though his pursuits are far less technologically based, preferring to keep his nerdity to academic pursuits such as the opera and medicine. These are just off the top of my head, but just like in real life, nerds exist throughout the NBA.
To that list we must add Andrew Bynum. Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins has authored a terrific profile of the Lakers big man, chock full of nerdy anecdotes. For instance:
Growing up, Bynum cracked open telephones so he could examine the circuitry and put them back together. At seven he was in the chess club at his local Barnes & Noble. At 14 he was installing Microsoft Windows on broken laptops his mother found in her office. His favorite subject in school was physics. He only considered colleges where he could major in mechanical engineering. His plan after graduation was to land a job as a computer programmer. He can describe the difference between a quad-core and dual-core processor in such detail that it almost makes sense. “He cares deeply about the way things work,” says L.A. coach Phil Jackson. The Lakers knew Bynum would encounter setbacks, but while the typical teenager might shut down, his instinct was to keep tinkering. It’s how he is wired. “I want to master everything,” Bynum says. “I want to understand what the hell is going on.”
Even after signing his four-year, $57.4 million contract in 2008, Bynum still lives with his mom, Janet McCoy, who raised him alone in Plainsboro, N.J., because she believed the area’s acclaimed public school system would challenge his inquisitive mind. They are joined in the house in Westchester in West L.A. by seven computers, several of which Bynum assembled on his own, and are among the fastest Corbin has ever seen. “Drew could be an engineer,” says Corbin, who became a friend. “He built the George Jetson of computers.” Bynum also put together a remote control car that could reach 100 miles per hour, to the delight of kids in his neighborhood. He trained a Labrador, Max, and plans to breed them this summer. He leased a garage where he keeps most of his 12 cars and hopes to open an auto-body shop. He loves projects.
Just to recap, Andrew Bynum is a seven-foot tall, two-time NBA champion who parties at the Playboy Mansion when he’s not building superfast computers, training his dog or planning an auto-body shop. You can call him a renaissance man if you’d like, but I’m going to stick with nerd in the non-pejorative sense. Kind of amazing.
Even more amazing must be the conversations that Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom have on the team plane. Pau won’t shut up about Pavarotti while Bynum keeps blabbing on and on about the new graphics card he installed in his PC and Lamar is like, “Will you guys shut up? I’m trying to design a t-shirt with a wolf birthing a phoenix over here.” Meanwhile, at the front of the plane, Phil Jackson nods in silent approval.