When he’s not stretching his limbs on the basketball court, the Pacers’ Mike Dunleavy is most likely stretching his mind with one of his favorite board games.
Scrabble, the word game that first became popular in the 1950s, brings out the competitive spirit in Dunleavy when he’s not shooting baskets.
“Scrabble just keeps you on your toes. It makes you think because it requires a certain level of intelligence and creativeness,” said Dunleavy, who enjoys playing cards and board games while hanging out with friends and family.
Of course, board games weren’t the only type of games Dunleavy became familiar with while growing up. In addition to playing baseball, football, croquet and ping pong, Dunleavy became intimately familiar with professional basketball at a very young age.
With a basketball bloodline that includes his father, Los Angeles Clippers head coach and former NBA player Mike Dunleavy, it was inevitable. As a child, Dunleavy sometimes joined his father on plane trips to his games.
Even so, Dunleavy said, he never felt pressured to follow in his father’s footsteps by playing basketball.
“When I grew up, it was a natural thing,” said Dunleavy, one of three sons. “It’s always been a big part of my family’s life. I loved it from the day I picked up a basketball. I never looked at it like ‘I had to do it.’
“My parents were always very supportive in terms of anything I chose to do.”
Dunleavy recalled playing around with sports for as long as he can remember, getting involved in team play by joining a youth league in the first or second grade.
“I always liked different types of sports, but I realized how much I loved basketball by the time I reached high school. That’s when I pretty much decided I wanted to be a basketball player,” he said.
When he’s not concentrating on his game during the season or focusing on his favorite board game, Dunleavy also enjoys watching movies, traveling and experiencing new cultures.
His movies of choice range from the comedy "Dumb and Dumber" to the action movie "Gladiator" and the cult classic "American Psycho."
He also likes to catch up on thought-provoking films such as the indie movie "Rescue Dawn," which is about a U.S. fighter pilot’s struggle to survive during the Vietnam War. Such movies also feed his interest in history, which he majored in at Duke University.
Dunleavy said he continues to learn about the history of the world and various cultures by traveling when he is able to carve out extra time in his schedule. One of his most recent trips was to Ireland and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, which combined his love of history as well as another of his pastimes: golf.
“A lot of my family has Irish roots,” said Dunleavy, who picked up golf as a hobby about 10 years ago. “It was great to see the country and play golf at some of the best courses in the world.”
Among the trips he would like to take in the future include a safari tour in Africa. “I would really like to check out that continent when I have the time,” he said.
As a person who has spent his life around the professional sport of basketball, Dunleavy has a few words of advice for those who aspire to follow in the footsteps of NBA players.
“Along the way, there are going to be many doubters and nay-sayers ,” he said. “You pretty much have to believe in yourself, who you are. You have to keep working.
“I never listened to anything anybody said. I just worked and worked. Fortunately, I made it to this level. There are no secrets about making it — just hard work.”