When Fantasy takes over reality: The life of an NBA Fantasy manager

Anton Roxas
Photo c/o @chinoluipio on IG

A little over two months ago, I met LeBron James. Being inside the same gym with the best basketball player in the world left me absolutely starstruck. After a once in a lifetime experience like that, I told myself that I would worship The King forever.

However, this past week, I’ve been praying for his downfall.

Call me a hypocrite, but there are certain types of people out there who will understand my sudden conversion.

They are known as NBA Fantasy Managers. But, for this particular story, let’s focus on a specific group called the “ZBOYS”.

The “ZBOYS” consist of myself and my batchmates from De La Salle-Zobel High School. Together, we form what we believe is one of the most competitive NBA Fantasy leagues in the entire Philippines. Our league is so serious, we hold a draft night, mandate every manager to pay a buy-in of 1,000 pesos and penalize the bottom four managers a fee 1,500 pesos at the end of the season. We even have our own Commissioner, Kian del Mundo.

Kian is a busy man. He’s a proud father, loving husband and part-owner of popular local streetwear brand, “UNSCHLD” (Check them out: unschld.ph). Even though he has his hands full throughout the day, he still manages to find the time to get on his gadgets and run our fantasy league which is currently on its ninth year.

“The league actually started as a standard rotisserie league in the interface of SPORTINGNEWS around 2005. But, it got really serious in 2008 when we migrated to ESPN and started the head-to-head points league format,” said Kian, who is also the “ZBOYS’” winningest manager having won three championships (2010, 2011, 2016) since the league became official in 2009.

While it may seem that being the “ZBOYS” League Commissioner and a participating manager at the same time has advantages, that notion is untrue. Kian is actually playing at a handicap because of his numerous responsibilities as Commissioner such as conducting a voting process when trades are offered.

One of the “ZBOYS’” most active managers, especially when it comes to trading players, is Wanai Dela Peňa. I remember during the 2014-15 NBA season, which was my first year in the league, Wanai offered to trade Andre Drummond for my fourth pick in the draft, Klay Thompson. Because Wanai drafted Drummond as his second pick, I accepted his offer and the trade was completed. A few days later, Thompson scored a then-career-high 52 points.

Wanai, who works as a Compliance Officer for a Digital Financial Services Company never revealed to me how he correctly predicted a boom in Thompson’s game. However, the two-time “ZBOYS” Champion (2013, 2014) was nice enough to share a few Fantasy tips when it comes to the kind of players to acquire:

1. Not Injury Prone – To be able to maximize the number of games.
2. On their contract year – Because they need to prove themselves.
3. First or second star of their team – Huge number of minutes.

These valuable pointers were followed to the letter by last season’s “ZBOYS” Champion, Atty. Carlos Agana. On draft night, Carlos landed the number one overall pick and used it to select James Harden.

“I think everybody knew that Harden is this tremendous talent, but putting that type of talent in Mike D’Antoni’s system was just the makings of a perfect storm,” explained Carlos, who came off an eight-year NBA Fantasy hiatus.

So, how did a lawyer like Carlos pull off that incredible NBA Fantasy comeback?

“Well, definitely don’t quit your day job! But, maybe adding habits like waking up a few minutes earlier than you usually do and just doing your due diligence on your players consistently will go a long way. I believe in the power of compounding interest and small improvements here and there will eventually snowball and avalanche into success.”

It’s definitely not an easy task to become successful in the NBA Fantasy game. Just ask Dr. Paolo Borja, who finished dead last among the “ZBOYS” in the past three seasons. But, even though he’s been the cellar dweller of the group (and a usual target of trash talk, usually from Pox Juban and Ron Reyes.), Doc Paolo continues to find time to participate every year.

“I keep on participating in NBA Fantasy Basketball not just because it keeps me involved and interested with the exciting action around the league but it also promotes camaraderie with my boys,” says Doc Paolo, who is an Internal Medicine resident at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City.

Every day, I am bombarded with about 150+ messages in our “ZBOYS” WhatsApp group. Lately, my work schedule has made it difficult for me to wake up early in the morning for the highly competitive add/drop process, so I’ve resorted to praying and just getting updates through the chatter that occurs online.

Earlier, I scrolled up to read the messages and saw a comment from Martin Kapauan, my opponent for the week.

“Gg anton!”

My first thought upon reading Martin’s comment was that my prayers for the week were answered. Martin, who owns LeBron James in our league, was already conceding defeat despite still having two more days left in our match-up. But, I also thought that he could be bluffing. After all, Martin is a businessman and you can never count out The King. Especially in NBA Fantasy.

 

I’m currently in my fourth year playing with the “ZBOYS” and I must say that every day with them is a challenge. I have yet to win a championship or make the playoffs and that just goes to show that even though my profession requires me to cover basketball, it doesn’t give me any advantage at all.

To win, I must embrace the grind. That involves waking up early (sometimes at 3:00 A.M.), making sure I have Wi-Fi wherever I go (even out of the country), actively shuffling my roster (adding, dropping, trading and researching about players), and yes, praying for the success of my players and failure for the ones I go against, even when they’ve inspired me greatly.

When I first started playing, I tried to do all of that to the point where I would lose sleep and put off accomplishing important parts of my daily routine like eating and exercising. I will never forget what Chino Lui Pio, the person who invited me to join the “ZBOYS” and 2012 champion, told me during my first few days in the game. Chino, a former Myx VJ turned Sportscaster told me that NBA Fantasy “will take over your life.”

That may be so. But, if you love the NBA that much, you won’t mind at all. 

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports.

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