Celtics' Gordon Hayward takes a break from rehabbing ankle to talk video games

Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward reached an important milestone in his rehab from ankle surgery recently, as he's now able to walk around without his protective boot. Taking advantage of his newfound mobility, Hayward made a trip to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston on Wednesday afternoon to spend some time with the kids. 

In addition to doing a motivational speech and giving away some gifts, Hayward also spent some time doing one of his favorite activities with the kids: playing video games. Ahead of the event, Hayward talked to CBS Sports about the event and, well, gaming, of course.

CBS Sports: There's a lot of different charity or volunteer work that you could do. Why was it important for you to get out and work with the kids at the Boys & Girls Club?

Gordon Hayward: I think that working with kids is one of my favorite things to do when we have days like this, and time when I can see them and interact and hang out. Going there, they bring me so much inspiration. As much as I brighten their day, they do the same thing for me. It really puts things in perspective for me, and just really gives me a chance to not think about basketball and just hang out and have a good time.

CBS: I know one of the things you're doing today with the kids is playing Destiny 2. As someone who has played a lot of video games, how do you think they can positively impact kids?

GH: I think video games are great for bringing kids together and having some natural competition, teaching kids about teamwork, working together for a common goal. I think a little bit of cognitive reasoning, trying to solve problems, trying to figure out problems. I think those are all good things for kids to learn.

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Hayward playing Destiny 2 with kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. Paul Marotta / Getty Images for Activision

CBS: Going off that, there was a study a few years ago by Rochester University that said playing video games "trains people to make the right decisions faster." Via Rochester.edu:

"Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester have discovered that playing action video games trains people to make the right decisions faster. The researchers found that video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, and this benefit doesn't just make them better at playing video games, but improves a wide variety of general skills that can help with everyday activities like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town."

Do you think there's any truth to that? And if so, do you think it's helped you at all on the court where you have to constantly be making quick decisions?

GH: I would say, when you're playing video games that involve competition against somebody else, you have to be able to understand what's going on and react in the fastest time possible to either -- if it's a capture the flag game, capture the flag, if you're trying to take out the other team, take them out.

Same thing in basketball. Like if you're one or two steps ahead of your opponent, and you know where they're gonna be, you're gonna be successful. If you can read the play before it happens, and make the pass before the player's gonna be there, you're gonna be successful.

And I think from a mental standpoint, you're almost doing mental puzzles over and over, and training your brain to react quicker, to read situations and solve it. If that's in basketball, if that's in other activities too, you're basically stimulating your mind. So I think it's gonna help you.

CBS: Obviously you're having to do a lot of rehab right now, and it's boring. It's frustrating. You can't get on the court. Do you think being a big fan of video games has helped you through that process? In that you have an activity that you love to do that you can still do even while injured.

GH: There's nothing that can replace being on the court with your teammates. Just a feeling that can't be duplicated. But for me to have a distraction like video games where I can hang out with friends, still compete through that. I mean that's something I'm for sure thankful for, for sure helps me get away. Especially at the beginning when I couldn't do as much rehab, and the only thing I could do was kinda sit there, that was something I turned to. It allows me to get away and not really think about my ankle.

CBS: A lot of teams have started releasing the graphics and information about their 2K teams for the NBA 2K League. You seem to be more into RPGs, but how cool do you think it is that the league is getting into eSports?

GH: I'm not a huge 2K person. I've always have rather played sports than play that video game that's a sport. But I do think it's great that the league is getting involved in eSports, and they're helping to grow the industry. It's definitely cool to see the different franchises, and I did see what you were talking about on Twitter where they were releasing the different graphics of their teams and what the teams are called and stuff, so that's definitely cool.

CBS: I know you said you don't really play basketball video games, but I'm sure you're familiar with 'NBA Jam,' so what two Celtics would you choose to play with for your 'NBA Jam' team.

GH: Yeah, right now it would have to be Kyrie [Irving] and Al [Horford]. Kyrie because he's having an unbelievable year, he's able to do just about anything. You gotta have a little guy who can shoot some 3s. And then Al because he can do it all. He can shoot 3s, block shots, he can do it all. So that would be my tandem right now.

CBS: So, I saw on Twitter that the Celtics have a League of Legends chair in the locker room. Is that true?

GH: Yes, there is truth to that.

CBS: I assume that was your influence?

GH: Yeah, so I think it was NA LCS Finals in the summer that I went to, or kind of in the fall. I went and was a guest caster for a segment of their show. And they actually gave me that chair. So it's still in the locker room. It was one of the chairs that the guys were playing with on stage. So it's been in the locker room. It's been giving us good luck.

CBS: I know you're pretty elite when it comes to gaming. But is there anyone else in the locker room on the Celtics … like who's the best gamer on the team besides you?

GH: That's a good question. A lot of the guys on the team play PlayStation or XBox, so it's hard to say. I basically only play PC games now. I don't really play any of the casual games. If I had to choose one, maybe I'd go with Semi [Ojeleye]. But that's a complete guess. Basically I'm on the top tier, and everyone else is tier B.

CBS: Lastly, I wanted to ask you, I know Jonas Jerebko has gotten involved with owning an eSports team. Do you ever see yourself getting involved in that in the future?

GH: Yeah, I've actively been looking to get involved the past three, four years. Just still looking for the right situation. I think it would be great to be involved. It's something I'm obviously passionate about, and someday I might pull the trigger. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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