We caught up with Portland Trail Blazers forward Larry Nance Jr. to talk about his love of the Call of Duty video game franchise.
Professional athletes, especially NBA hoopers, are pretty good at video games. We compiled a list of them who will easily hand you an L in your game of choice that you can check out by going here. NBA players go at each other on the court and the virtual battlefield in Call of Duty, making it the top video game for the league’s athletes.
Ahead of the release of Call of Duty: Vanguard, the next installment in the franchise, Hip-Hop Wired had the opportunity to talk with Call of Duty athlete Larry Nance Jr. The seven-year vet broke down to us what it means to be a Call of Duty athlete, his favorite COD game which took us by surprise, his favorite Call of Duty moment, this current NBA season and even that hilarious Patrick Star meme moment.
Step into the interview below.
Hip-Hop Wired: So what exactly does it mean to be a Call Of Duty athlete? How did that opportunity get presented to you?
Larry Nance Jr.: So to be honest with you, I’ve had a relationship with Call Of Duty long before they had one [with] me. I’ve been an avid gamer for a long time now. And anybody that plays video games, Call Of Duty is in your games library. That’s a fact. So, for me, when the opportunity presented itself, it was just kind of a no-brainer. And I’m very thankful for my agency for being a part of the opportunity, and obviously, Call of Duty as well.
HHW: You helped us lead to our next question: What is your favorite game in the franchise?
LNJ: Oh man. It’s hard. So I would say I’ve got two answers for you. Overall, my favorite was Modern Warfare 2. Loved it. Absolutely adored that game. But also, this may be an unpopular opinion. I loved Ghosts.
HHW: Oh yeah. That’s a very unpopular opinion (peep the comments to the review shared below).
LNJ: I loved it. The marksman rifle for me was like, look, I loved that class, and I loved everything about it. So for me, Ghosts was high on my list.
HHW: That’s a big hot take there, but we agree with you on Modern Warfare 2. Modern Warfare 2 is our favorite as well.
HHW: Speaking of the game still, Call Of Duty is well known for its campaigns, and there are always these moments in the campaigns that always have you sitting there like, “Oh, sh*t. That was fire.” Can you recall one of your favorite moments from any of the campaigns in Call of Duty games?
LNJ: So, I mean, when I think of the campaigns, to be honest with you, two major things stick out. My favorite, of the whole of everything, was, I forget exactly what it was called, but when they first broke out the ghillie suits, I believe it was Modern Warfare 2. But that level where you’re crawling in the grass, and you got to avoid that [he is referring to the “All Ghillied Up,’ level from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare].
But, of course, one of my favorites was kind of cool playing from the villain aspect of it, was “No Russian.” I thought that was very cool. In a sense like you’re playing the good guys, but you kind of get a glimpse into what the bad guys are doing, as well. So it kind of gave you that much more added motivation once you got back to the good guy’s side, to take care of business.
HHW: We remember how much controversy that caused. It was to the point where they asked you if you didn’t want to play that level. That’s how crazy it was. We love that part, too.
HHW: Focusing on the new game, Call of Duty: Vanguard, were you able to participate in the beta?
LNJ.: So, unfortunately, I was not. I have been in the process of moving to Portland, and so I didn’t have my Internet set up at that point, which was unfortunate. But I’ve been a part of every other beta. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it, though.
HHW: How do you feel about the franchise going back to World War II?
LNJ: I love it. I love it. I mean, we dabbled in the future of war a little bit with the mech suits and all and did that a few games back. I actually like the historical aspect of going back and checking out some of the wars. So, of course, you can’t check out wars without World War II is kind of the one you got to look at. So I’m really looking forward to the campaign. And obviously, the multiplayer, that speaks for itself.
HHW: When you play online, what modes do you play the most?
LNJ: Gosh, right now, Warzone is the trump, for sure.
HHW: Oh, so you’re a Battle Royale guy, pretty much.
LNJ: I’m a Battle Royale guy, for sure.
HHW: Warzone didn’t resonate with Call Of Duty players that much immediately because of the whole Fortnite craze. It has grown on people a lot as of late. Since a lot of people play it, plus it’s free. So we guess that also helps.
LNJ: Right. For sure. No. I think especially with that craze of Fortnite. I think that Battle Royale mode is something that everybody’s just gotten excited about. And of course, like in a multiplayer game, it’s whoever gets the highest damage, whoever gets the most kills, like whoever gets the most points, like who’s number one. But, I love it because, in the Battle Royale mode, there’s no doubt about it. There’s a clear number one. Everybody else is last.
HHW: Not too long ago, we spoke with Karl-Anthony Towns ahead of the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 launch. He pretty much said he was the best Call Of Duty player in the league. Where do you rank your Call Of Duty skills? And do you agree with him? Do you feel you’re better than him?
LNJ: Oh, man, Karl’s pretty good. I’m definitely not. I wouldn’t put myself up there in that category. I’m not terrific at it. I try hard. It sounds so bad. But look, my skills aren’t crazy good. But I try hard. I play all the time. For me, it’s just like a super fun social experience with my friends and whatnot.
HHW: Ah, copy. We understand because we play too. And these kids are like light years ahead of us.
LNJ: That’s how I feel.
HHW: We look at our kill to death ratio after a match and be like, “This is awful, man.”
LNJ: Right. I do not need to come home from practice and get demoralized by these 12 and 13-year-olds right now. Like I get super competitive and start having to lean forward in my chair, everything like that. Like, it just brings out the competitor in me.
HHW: Since you were very honest about your skill level. Who do you feel is the best Call Of Duty player in the league?
LNJ: The best in the league? I don’t know. One of the best that I consistently play games with, I actually think is Josh Hart. He’s pretty good, man. And I would hate for that to get back to him because I can’t stand him talking trash, but he’s actually pretty good.
HHW: Shall we keep this off the record.
LNJ: Please. Please do. No, I’m messing with you. He’s a good friend, and I think he’s actually pretty good.
HHW: Oh, okay. We have heard he’s pretty good. Now we would be remiss if we didn’t ask a basketball question. Where do you think your Blazers will end up at the end of the season?
LNJ.: Wow. You went right for it. I mean, look, here’s what I got for you. I came out and wanted to join this team for one reason and that’s to win. So, obviously we, unfortunately, didn’t get that done last night [Blazers lost to the Kings opening night]. But the plan going forward is to go 81 one from here on out.
And then we’ll see where that takes us. But for me, I just can’t wait to get back to the playoffs and really show everybody what this team can do. Because I think we got a special group of guys. This team has already been to the Conference Finals and I see no reason why we can’t get back there and have a really good chance of pushing onto the finals.
HHW: We think it’s wide open. There are favorites and stuff like that, but we do believe it’s wide open. If your team catches fire at the right time, it’s pretty much a straight line to the finals. So we think the Trail Blazers are very capable of that.
LNJ: Exactly. You got it.
HHW: And hopefully, you get some highlights of yourself, and they’ll turn you into a SpongeBob character again for no apparent reason.
LNJ: Man, look, man, it’s year seven, and I still don’t know why that happened. How I got turned into Patrick, man, I will never know. Look, it’s one of the great memes of our day, so I’ll take it.
HHW: Bleacher Report never explained that to you at all?
LNJ: I never got any words of explanation. They were just like, “Yeah, we’re going to turn you into Patrick. You get to deal with it.”
You can catch Larry Nance Jr. battling on the virtual battlefield in Call of Duty: Vanguard when the game releases on November 5.
Photo: Rich Polk / Getty