Continuing our periodic features on professional sporting figures here, this time we drop in on an American who has had, to put it mildly, a chequered basketball career which has seen him abandon his native Michigan for Britain, Germany and Spain, including the Canary Islands.
- 31-year-old Nick Moore, currently plying his trade at Tenerife Basketball Club, has had something of a roller-coaster ride in all respects since turning pro in 2003 and his persistence in the face of adversity is testimony to his commitment to the game he loves.
Nick’s first port of call after leaving the States was London, where he played for BBL outfit Thames Valley Tigers for two seasons (2003-05). Next up was a stint at Rhondorf in Germany’s Bundesliga 2, where his performances brought him to the attention of a Spanish agent who encouraged him to switch to Spain to further his career. The move turned out to be a good one in more ways than one: initially bound for Vigo, a last-minute change of plans saw him head instead to La Rioja to play for CB Clavijo and Nick can safely say that, were it not for that hitch, he would not be ‘hitched’. “On one of our free week-ends, a team-mate who is married to a girl from Tenerife invited me to pop down here for a few days with them. I met a girl called Sandra then and we kept in touch by phone afterwards. Things blossomed from there and she eventually moved up to La Rioja to spend the end of the season with me” explains Nick, who is now the proud husband of Sandra and even prouder father of a young daughter.
Ironically, as he moved on to other clubs, his former side CB Clavijo have gone from strength to strength and, following promotion last season, are one of the revelations in the LEB Oro league this year. Our interview with Nick took place after morning practice at the Santiago Martin stadium, a training venue Tenerife share with high-flying Iberostar Canarias, who look almost certain to go up to the big-money ACB Premiership this season. “I need no reminding that if I had stayed at Rioja I would be playing against these Canarias guys this season. But I could not have known that. Hindsight is a great thing but at the time I felt a move to the Rosalía club, who were then in LEB Oro, was a good option”.
Things since then have not worked out entirely as planned. Nick found himself without a club a few seasons ago and asked to train at junior side Tacoronte, for whom he subsequently signed. A summer trip home so their newborn baby could get to know the American half of the family turned out to be rather longer than anticipated due to the lack of decent offers for the following season. “In terms of money, what was offered in Spain was not what I expected so we decided to spend 10 months back home” he explains. The period in question was just when the economic crisis was beginning to hit basketball in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, with many players forced to take a massive cut in wages. “Some players I have heard about were offered a contract 75 per cent below what they were earning the previous year” explains Nick, who is certainly not in the category of high-earners at present. He has taken on an extra job as an English teacher in a La Laguna language school and also gives private classes to supplement his basketball earnings. “It can make for some very tough days, such as one last week when, by 7.30 am, I was at the home of a pilot whom I teach until 9.00, then basketball practice from 9.30-12.00, a class from 12.30-1.30, a quick bite for lunch, language school from 2.30 to 7.00 and then back here to practice from 8.30 to 10pm. That is my worst day, granted! Now you see why I say it is for the love of the game. We don’t have any luxuries right now. It is certainly pretty humbling compared to my second year in Spain, when life was really good. But I have my wife and daughter to keep me happy and they give me a different perspective on life”.
Nick readily admits that there are times when he asks himself what he is doing here. “I am certainly not building a nest egg of any type at present and I reckon I only still play due to my love of the game. One thing my 10 months back in the States taught me was that in the present economic climate there are a lot of people who are not in a position to build a nest egg for themselves doing a ‘real’ job. A lot of people punching that clock from 9 to 5 to scrape together what money they can. At least I am doing something I really love and hence my decision to come back and try and get another couple of years from the game”.
Those next couple of years may not necessarily be in Tenerife even though Nick clearly has powerful reasons to stay on, which is not necessarily a good thing for teams to know because it is not always helpful when trying to negotiate a deal. If a club knows a player is keen to stay put, they tend to offer much less. “In our case, it is by no means certain we will remain. Sandra has no problems adapting to the States, even the weather. I lived in snow for 23 years back in Michigan and have no need to go back, but she would be quite happy to stay there. She has been to the States four or five times with me and she loves it” says Nick, who acknowledges that this year at struggling Tenerife is proving “very tough, one of the most difficult” in his career to date.
Going back home would not be that bad. After all, as Nick is at pains to point out, Michigan has “everything a sports fan could want: Detroit is brilliant. The Pistons for basketball, the Red Wings for ice hockey, the Lions for American football. The fans in Detroit are something else”. And it would give him a chance to get back to the other love of his life - Arabic food, for which he has more than a soft spot.