The Original NBA Player/Writer Paul Shirley


“I always felt like when I was on the court, I could behave completely differently from when I was off the court.

Episode Description

Season Two kicks off with Paul Shirley, who began his writing career while playing in The NBA for the league-best Phoenix Suns, writing on their blog about his experience on the team as it unfolded throughout the 2004-05 season.  

In 2018 we often see players giving fans a behind-the-scenes online account in real-time, but in the pre-social media world that Paul was writing during, it was unheard of – and Paul may have been the first to do it. And in doing so helped pave the way for players to share more of themselves and their experience, thoughts, and ideas directly with fans.

You’ll hear Paul’s insane rollercoaster of basketball rosters playing for about a dozen teams between the NBA and teams overseas and more about that Phoenix Suns blog which led to his first hit book Can I Keep My Jersey, which was then adapted and made into a TV pilot. All of this while playing pro basketball. 

Guest Info

Paul believes his dual identity as a player/writer actually made him less desirable to teams during his decade-long pro basketball career, but ultimately being first to be a player/writer launched his pro writing career, which has included writing for Slate, The Wall Street Journal, and Esquire, in addition to the books he’s authored included his latest release Stories I Tell On Dates.


Show Links

Show Notes

  • What’s in a Big Jump? [5:23]

  • Earliest memory playing sports — a budding MLB athlete [5:40]

  • Giving kids credit — becoming a basketball player [7:00]

  • Young Paul Shirley: a Renaissance man [7:42] 

  • The Shirley parents [9:48]

  • The Athlete vs Academic identity [10:49]

  • The future was basketball — Dad turns the screws [14:56]

  • A roller coaster career [17:00] 

  • Faith, luck, and self-reliance [21:09]

  • Decisions, decisions, decisions [24:30] 

  • The start — Road Ramblings [27:04]

  • Revolutionizing the blogging world [28:58]

  • An unexpected darker side [30:42]

  • “Just shoot a ball” [32:22]

  • This is the end — a final separation of careers [35:29]

  • A diversified identity — transition strategy [39:01] 

  • Dealing with the transition [40:08] 

  • Investing in yourself [42:08]

  • Paul's Big Jump — an uh-oh moment [42:48]

  • How sport carried over — committing to working hard [44:49]

  • The simplest things are always the hardest [47:58] 

  • Writer’s Blok — a reinvention and community [50:16]

  • Toeing the line — being vulnerable [56:19]

  • Oversharing [58:20]

  • Be open to dissenting voices [1:05:10]

  • Less sleep — a new ability [1:06:32]

  • What advice would you give freshman Paul? [1:07:44]

People Mentioned

David GardnerSeason 2