NBA Season Restart 2019-20

Disney World Diary: Gone fishin' takes on whole new meaning

NBA campus an opportunity for amateur anglers to see what they can catch

ORLANDO, Fla. — You might assume Paul George and I share lots in common. We’re both 6-foot-8, can execute a 360-degree dunk, will pull up for a 3-pointer on the run and make roughly $28 million a year.

Actually, none of that is true on my end. And here’s something else: George loves to fish and I’d rather just eat fish.

There are hundreds of lakes in Central Florida, dozens on the Walt Disney World property and a few just outside the NBA hotels on the campus here. Guests can rent poles at each hotel, where bridges and walkways are conveniently situated around the water to encourage anglers to bait up and reel out.

Much like golf, plenty of NBA players are getting their first-ever taste of fishin’ here at Disney. That’s not a typo, either. That’s the correct term used by country folk and serious anglers. They don’t “fish.” They don’t do “fishing.” They go fishin’.

George goes fishin’. It’s a passion of his, ever since he was a kid growing up in Palmdale, which is a country town near Los Angeles. George holds a fishin’ expedition every summer and all of his Clippers teammates have a free invite. A few years ago while playing with Oklahoma City, he took Russell Westbrook out on the boat. Russ is a city kid, from south L.A., and he clearly just went along for the ride. According to well-placed sources, Westbrook hasn’t held a worm and a hook ever since. If given the choice between fishin’ or going out to dinner with Kevin Durant, I suspect it’ll be dinner for Westbrook; maybe he’ll order fish.

The last time I went fishin’ was at age 12, in a Pittsburgh city park, and you can just imagine the quality of fish caught in the western part of Pennsylvania, which will never be mistaken for Alaska or Florida or wherever else “real” fish is plentiful. We fished for carp, which I understand is the bottom-barrel of fish. Real fishermen would never admit to fishin’ for carp.

Now, many years later, I have a chance to atone for that poor judgment. The Disney folk, from what I understand, restocked the lakes to make it easier for first-time NBA players to actually catch something other than guppies. That’ll also make it easier for me, and so this weekend I’ll rent a pole and figure out the hard part — how to bait the hook. And then the even harder part: How to unhook the fish. Assuming, of course, that I actually catch one.

Yes, this is all rather pathetic. A sophisticated adult such as myself should be well-rounded and schooled on all of life’s pleasures by now, yet for some reason fishin’ escaped me. That’s about to end, starting this weekend.

Reporters sometimes resort to tricks in order to develop a bond with subjects. One method is to immerse ourselves in that subject’s passion in order to get the conversation started and make interviews go smoothly. Which means Paul George and I will have plenty to talk about very soon.

First question: Paul, what’s the best way to unhook the fish? I gave up and just cut the wire instead.

Well on second thought, if that’s the first question to someone who’s an expert on fishin, there might not be a next question.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter .

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