Traveling to 28 countries during his professional basketball career, New Jerseyite Kevin Owens has enjoyed his homecoming over the past 10 years and a new career out of hardwood. Yet he begins to feel like traveling again after releasing a new book. Overseas Famous, the travels and tribulations of a basketball globetrotter.
“I had traveled enough in a lifetime,” says Owens, who lives in Cherry Hill, where he teaches in college, coaches basketball and runs a management company for foreign athletes transitioning to a life at home. “Now I’m ready to explore again. “
Owens explored a lot after playing Division 1 basketball for Monmouth and then turned pro. He played for the Roanoke Dazzle in Virginia 2003-2005, then traveled abroad to play for Anwil Wloclawek in Włocławek, Poland. Later that year he returned to Dazzle, but soon moved to Australia to play for the Cairns Taipans. In the years to come he played for professional teams in South Korea, New Zealand, Kosovo and Estonia.
“I was 22 when I entered the NBA D-League in Roanoke and 24 when I made my first trip overseas,” he says. “I was 31 when I finally came home 10 years ago and hung up my sneakers. These nine years have been amazing and stressful. Looking back, I have been extremely lucky to do the things I could do, I haven’t left the country since.
Playing basketball and traveling around Europe can be a challenge for a 6-foot-10 athlete.
“Yes, Europe wasn’t made for gigantic humans like me,” Owens laughs, “especially when we were traveling and staying in hotels. The beds were always singles made for, what I can only assume, children. I remember a hotel in Lithuania that had four different beds in the bedroom which I pushed together to create a large main bed. It created a decent strain on my back the next day.
Showers and bathrooms were another problem.
“Most of my showers looked like the Chris Farley plane bathroom scene in the movie Tommy Boy,he says. “I did my best to keep clean. I also had to bend over for the majority of visits to castles and historic structures. It was strange that something so big had ceilings too. low.
There were greater difficulties in traveling and maintaining a professional career abroad. Owens says he has played in matches in 16 countries and has traveled or visited 12 more.
“Loneliness and injury management were my two most difficult obstacles,” he says. “As my body started to deteriorate and I wasn’t able to effortlessly do the same things I did before, the money I made playing professional ball dwindled. Coping with the pressure of playing high performance sports without someone to talk to was difficult. “
Owens spent many nights alone in his apartment abroad “trying to keep my mind and body in order,” he says. “Some days were more difficult than others. I struggled with depression towards the end of my career. It had ceased to be an adventure.
His best foreign language learning was in South Korea.
“In all the other countries, interactions with coaches and most people were in English,” he recalls. “It made me lazy when it came to learning the language. In South Korea, no one spoke English, including the coaches and owners, and hardly the translators. I had to adapt and take a few words here and there. I’m not fluent at all, but I was able to hear some words in the conversation and sort of understand what was going on.
Owens decided to write the book about his travels overseas after realizing he was “a lightning rod for what could go wrong overseas.” He has faced injuries, non-payments, breaches of contracts with teams, unruly fans and more, he says.
“I also, however, got to see the world before I was 30,” he adds. “I stood on top of the Eiffel Tower, I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, drank a beer in a 1000-year-old castle and drank tea in a former imperial palace. I saw the Colosseum and the Northern Lights. I have visited several continents, countless countries, and almost every state in the United States. And I did everything, because I was a very good basketball player.
After playing against so many talented basketball players in the US and abroad, with whom and against whom has he played best?
“The best player I have played with was probably an Australian player named Martin Cattalini when I was with the Cairns Taipans,” said Owens. “Cat was an incredible goalscorer and did a lot of things well.”
In a high school summer championship game, Owens played against Kobe Bryant, and he says Bryant was the greatest player he had ever faced. He also faced NBA Hall of Fame member Alan Iverson in summer practice and Ersan Illyasova, Jonas Valančiūnas and Joe Ingles, who played in the NBA last season.
“I always go out and shoot with my 9 year old daughter,” Owens says. “It keeps me in shape, but my knees feel it every time. “