Tim "oLARRY" Anselimo Continues to Defy Odds One Year After Mass Shooting
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
8/1/19 | Cavs.com
In the professional sports world, we hear almost daily about individuals “overcoming adversity” or having a “chip on their shoulder” or “finding their competitive fire.”
We’ll never meet someone who means it more – who’s lived it more – than Tim “oLARRY” Anselimo.
Anselimo – known professionally by his 2K moniker “oLARRY” – just completed his first full season for the Cavs Legion in the NBA 2K League before heading home to Tampa for the summer. And to call this campaign a comeback would be an enormous understatement. Less than one year ago, the Brooklyn native was recovering from surgery after taking four bullets during a mass shooting that claimed the lives of three people – including the shooter – and injured 11 more, including Anselimo.
On August 26, 2018, during a Madden NFL 19 Classic qualifier at Chicago Pizza in Jacksonville, a disgruntled player named David Katz left the tournament after a loss and returned with a pair of handguns. In the ensuing chaos, Katz killed gamers Eli “TrueBoy” Clayton and Taylor “SpotMeplzzz” Robertson before turning the 9mm pistol on himself.
”Everything happened so fast and, on that stage, in that moment, when you realize what's truly going on, it's like they say: it's fight or flight,” explained the 25-year-old. “Or, you know, it's like your life flashes before you, and you just have to figure out what to do. And I got caught up in a crowd, made one wrong move and ended up taking a couple of bullets. I'm just lucky that somehow I still had the energy and the strength to get out of there.”
After finding the strength to escape the GLHF Gaming Bar, Anselimo made it to a Hooters two doors down, where workers might have saved his life.
In his first full season with the Cavs Legion, oLARRY and Co. finished just shy of a Playoff berth.
Cavs Legion GC
”Some employees in there saw me and brought me in to help me and, honestly – Jordan from Hooters, who helped me – I think to this day that if he wasn't there to help me, I think I probably wouldn't have made it. He took his shirt and wrapped up my hand to slow down the bleeding and applied some pressure to my chest and hip wounds to slow down the bleeding.
”If he wasn't there, I'm not sure I would've made it.”
But surviving that day’s tragic events was just the start of Anselimo’s arduous comeback journey.
He was shot four times – in the hip, his right hand and his chest. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet in Anselimo’s chest. He underwent two surgeries over the next three days – including one to re-attach his right thumb, which was nearly severed in the attack.
”In the hospital, they explained my injury to me and showed me some pictures and I just saw how bad it was – it was shattered pretty bad to where I barely had any bone left in my thumb,” said Anselimo. “They explained: you're going to be very limited, we're not sure how much feeling you'll ever get back.”
These first few weeks of recovery were difficult days for the professional gamer originally from Brooklyn.
“A lot of my thinking was: alright, this is over with now – and I was almost ready to give up,” he said. “And I guess after some time of healing, I was able to reset mentally. People around me convinced me: ‘Don't give up, keep trying. This is not an overnight recovery.’ I had to try to look at it like that, because at the moment, I was kind of angry at the whole situation and ready to give up.”
"The competitive side of me was like: I can't fall behind the curve and suck at this game and still be a pro. So, I just sat the controller on my lap and kind of figured out a new way to play with the injury."
Tim Anselimo on re-inventing his game after the attack.
For a gamer – whether it’s PC gaming or console controllers – the thumb is critically important. Anselimo compared his injury to an athlete blowing out his ACL and MCL combined. Others have compared his injury to a quarterback losing his arm.
But Anselimo wasn’t deterred.
After he was released from the hospital, his hand was in a cast and his thumb was in a hard cast. He left with a plate in his right hand, held in place by a dozen screws and almost no sensation in his thumb. He’d also had surgery on his right middle finger, part of which was also severed in the shooting.
Anselimo figured out a new grip, using his index finger in place of the action reserved for his thumb.
”I just had three fingers available and thought: 'OK, now I have to figure something out.' And at the same time that I was getting out, the new NBA 2K ('19) was just coming out. So, the competitive side of me was like: I can't fall behind the curve and suck at this game and still be a pro. So, I just sat the controller on my lap and kind of figured out a new way to play with the injury. And it took me maybe three or four months to get comfortable and get really good with it. But I figured it out.”
Anselimo, who was part of the Bucks Gaming, the esports affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks at the time of the shooting, was left unprotected in the 2019 NBA 2K League expansion draft and selected by Minnesota, who then dealt him to the Cavs Legion – where he just completed the regular season this past week, averaging just over 10 points and six boards per contest, with the Legion falling just short of the Playoffs.
Despite missing the postseason, the Legion’s starting center still honored near the end of the campaign – walking the red carpet and taking home a 2019 ESPY for Best Esports Moment.
“Tim defines strength and courage,” praised Cavs senior director of esports, Jonathan Sumers. “To overcome what he endured in Jacksonville is remarkable and a reminder to us all that anything can be achieved with hard work and an unshakable self-confidence.”
Every day is still a challenge for Anselimo. Physically, it’s difficult to do things that most of us take for granted – tying shoelaces, zipping up a jacket. Mentally, he still has nightmares of the shooting and still has difficulty going to crowded events or listening to music loudly.
But every day he finds the strength, courage, perseverance and pure competitive drive to push forward and continue on as one of the top gamers on the planet. It’d be foolish to bet against him.
”From a competitive standpoint, some people say that I even played better this season,” concluded Anselimo. “I don't know if that was me, having that chip on my shoulder or just being fueled to come back better and stronger and not let this kind of like defeat me, as a competitor and as a person.
”And from a talent and gameplay standpoint, out there being a professional, I feel like I'm still the same – or even better. I just think it took time to get adapted … but I'm here now.”