In the eighth and final instalment of NBA 2K Sundays with Thibaut Courtois, Thibaut challenged Pierre Gasly of the Alpha Tauri F1 Racing Team, with Courtois playing as the Washington Wizards and Gasly playing as the Los Angeles Lakers. It was Courtois who claimed a 76-70 victory over Gasly in a hard-fought game which remained closely competitive until the final seconds. In addition to 2K gameplay, the two talked at length about the rise of virtual gaming during the hiatus, their passion for the NBA and life as a Formula One driver.
During the current suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season, which initially saw a record 48 primetime games scheduled in Europe on Saturdays and Sundays, Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been hosting a weekly series of NBA2K20 games against different European sports personalities, celebrities and influencers as a part of the #NBATogether initiative. Before the NBA2K match-up against Gasly, Courtois competed for the third time in the Formula One Virtual Grand Prix Series, finished 13th around the Virtual Monaco track, racing alongside Antonio Giovinazzi for Alfa Romeo.
Are you an F1 fan?
Courtois: “Yes, I really like F1. Last year I went to the French GP, but I’ve always been a fan. I would always watch the races, but I never got the chance to go to a race in person. So, last year I had this opportunity and I went. I’ve been playing the F1 game for a couple of years, so I knew the game and I knew I had a good level to compete in the virtual grands prix.”
What do you love most about F1 and the NBA?
Courtois: “The NBA is the athleticism, the playoffs, how the NBA works, with the salary cap, the Draft… I think it’s really exciting.”
“F1 is the speed of the cars, all technical details on why one car is faster than another… it’s pretty special.”
How much have you missed them during the lockdown?
Courtois: “A lot! I remember I was looking forward to the new F1 season and then they postponed the Australian GP. Similarly, with the NBA, we were getting to the end of the regular season and then the playoffs, which is the most exciting time of the season, but obviously health comes first. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season when it can start again.”
How did you get in to F1?
Courtois: “I started watching it when Michael Schumacher was driving Ferrari and I enjoyed the success he had. I’ve always followed F1 since then and even more in the last few years as I’m now playing the F1 game and I understand more about it.”
How have you found competing in the virtual races and if there was a virtual race with only footballers, would you finish on top of the podium?
Courtois: “Well, in the last one in Spain, there were Arthur Melo from Barcelona and Aguero and I was ahead of them, so I would try to win a race with all footballers… I really love the game, I’m playing with friends all the time, so it was nice to get involved. It was fun and it was great to see that I can be competitive against some F1 drivers as well.”
Which of your Real Madrid teammates would make the best NBA player and why?
Courtois: “I could say is Isco because he has some really good technique in three-point shooting, so probably him. Sergio Ramos as well because he plays basketball at times, Modric or Areola – he also has a nice shooting technique. There’s many NBA fans in the Real Madrid locker room.”
Which of your Real Madrid teammates would make the best F1 driver and why?
Courtois: “That’s tough because I don’t really know their driving style, but I know that [Federico] Valverde follows Formula One, Areola also has the set to play the F1 game. I guess one of them would be the best driver.”
Who would be the worst?
Courtois: “Probably someone who doesn’t have a driving license yet, like Vinicius or Rodrigo… they’re too young. But you never know, they might be good drivers.”
Who is your favourite NBA player and why?
Courtois: “At the moment, I’d say Luka Doncic. He comes from Real Madrid, he’s a young European. He’s dominating quite well with the Mavs; I really like him. But I also like Giannis, LeBron, Harden… I don’t really have a favourite player, but I know Luka quite well, so maybe him, I enjoy watching him play a lot.”
F1 has been active in Esports. Have you been watching the Virtual Grands Prix?
Gasly: “Yes, I follow the races and I would have loved to take part, but I didn’t have a simulator to compete. I have watched many of the races though and I must say it is really impressive how much attention it is getting. Media and fans have got into it. If it does something good for the sport, that is great and I think it does, so it’s all really positive.”
How does Esports racing compare with real life racing?
Gasly: “I would say that over the past few years, it is crazy to see how close to reality these games have become. I think F1 is really catching up and they are doing a really good job with the tracks, graphics and driving wise it is getting better.”
Are you a big NBA fan?
Gasly: “I really love the NBA. Most of the time I try to go and watch games when there are races in the US, so I went to see Houston, I spent some time in Miami and I managed to see a couple of games there. I went to see the Raptors once, Lakers… I just love the atmosphere. It gives you goosebumps just watching it and the level of the athletes is also really impressive – it’s completely different from F1.”
Are you a big gamer?
Gasly: “I do play a lot. I play a lot of Call of Duty, which is something I love doing just to relax, especially when I travel a lot and then go back home and spend time with my friends. I play FIFA, 2K… but I take it as a hobby.”
What’s your favourite NBA team?
Gasly: “I would say the Lakers. I really like LeBron James, as an athlete and as a person. His charisma, his attitude, he’s a great leader.”
Who do you think could win this season?
Gasly: “I think the Lakers look pretty strong. I’ll be happy for LeBron to get the title because going to the Lakers wasn’t easy, it was a big challenge… but looking at the results, I think they’re in a really good shape, but you never know what to expect in the playoffs.”
How did you get into racing?
Gasly: “When I was young, I used to watch Michael Schumacher. He was my idol growing up. He was winning all the races at the time… from that moment, I realized I wanted to be in F1, I wanted to win races. I had my first testing in go karts when I was 6 and I got into racing properly when I was 9. From that moment, I just kept racing. I went from karting to single seater when I was 15, so I started in Formula 4 when I was 15 and then two years later, I won the European championship in Formula Renault. The year after, I went to Formula 3.5 and got second in the championship, then Formula 2, so just a step-up year after year. I won the World Championship in F2 and after one season in Japan then F1 for the first time in 2017.”
You got your first podium in Brazil last year; it must have been a great feeling…
Gasly: “Yes, this is something I had been dreaming about, especially after all that happened last year. You try to fight for points every weekend, so I was kind of surprised to get to the podium. It gave me goosebumps. My next goal is to win a race of course.”
Do you follow football as well?
Gasly: “I actually played football when I was younger. I love football. I follow all the European leagues. I still play sometimes with my friend, but I need to be careful not to get injured of course.”