CNBA: Cats of the National Basketball Association - Atlas Obscura
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CNBA: Cats of the National Basketball Association

Over a decade after the bestseller Moneyball brought terms like “sabermetrics” to the general public, statistics dominate the professional sports world. In the NBA alone, information ranging from simple facts like how many games a player has played, to more in-depth metrics like their Shooting Foul Frequency (“The percentage of times a player or team shoots a free throw as a result of a shooting foul,” per NBA.com) is crunched, analyzed, and recorded so that eager fans can pore over and argue about it for eternity.

So it’s a bit shocking that there is no record of which NBA players are cat people.

Luckily, thanks to an anonymous obsessive basketball fan/cat person, NBA Catwatch is on the case.

 

Hanımefendi pek bir nazlı :)

A photo posted by furkan aldemir (@furkan_aldemir) on

An NBA player and his cat. 

Started in 2013 as a joke Twitter feed, the Illinois-based mind behind NBA Catwatch found that their love of investigating which basketball stars owned cats was a bit more than a simple gag. “It was a typical dumb Twitter joke, but the more I thought about it, something caught in my brain,” NBACatwatch says in a phone interview, “I’d be watching a basketball game and I’d start to think about, who does own a cat on this team?”

Given the endless ocean of available information, not only from official outlets but also from players’ social media and various tabloid coverage, the creators of the Catwatch didn’t think that spotting the cat people among the NBA’s finest should be that hard. “The rule of owning a cat is that you have to post pictures about it on the internet,” he says.

But, as any reader of NBACatwatch can see, this site goes to often-absurd lengths to rout out the NBA’s cats. Through Twitter, Catwatch reaches out out to players, fans, and reporters looking for any fleeting instance of feline activity. The founder combs through thousands of photos, blog entries, fan sites and more, and uses a Tumblr blog to “keep a record” of the project.

“The process is becoming really interesting. I’m spending a lot more time on it. I’m still aware that it’s a ridiculous thing to be doing, but I’m taking it more and more seriously,” he says.


Is this ref asking Tony Parker his cat’s name? (Photo: Christopher Johnson/Wikipedia)

NBA Catwatch’s devotion to its cause has only gotten deeper as the project goes on. Some of the investigations have even begun to take on the tenor of a mad quest, involving granular snippets of blurry evidence and random tips. For instance in the Catwatch’s latest investigation into whether or not San Antonio Spurs Guard, Tony Parker owned a cat, things essentially became a search for Bigfoot. The Catwatch was first alerted to Parker’s possible cat in a tweet on June 25th of this year.

“One tip I received was that there was a write up from a 2006 NBA.com article that mentioned that he owned four cats. I contacted [Tony Parker] but that went nowhere. I looked around for someone who works for NBA digital media and I asked them if they could go in and figure out who was the author of this post. That person responded and they looked for me but it was fruitless,” he says.

Then, a break: a tipster contacted Catwatch on the 30th to say that they saw a cat in a French documentary about Tony Parker. “So I thumbed through that and that was the first place I found evidence. There’s three seconds of a cat walking down a hallway in front of him,” he says. But Catwatch, like any investigative outfit, likes to confirm a fact with more than one source. So far, though, attempts to talk to the filmmaker, “a bunch” of people in Parker’s circle including rapper Fat Joe and Tony Parker himself have failed to pan out.

The Catwatch knows few bounds in their search, contacting press agents, players’ wives and friends, and more. However, the site founder has scruples. Given the the contact info of someone who was supposedly Tony Parker’s pet sitter, the Catwatch chose to honor the “pet-sitter/pet-owner confidentiality agreement,” if such a thing exists. Ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, and other similarly problematic figures are also off the table.

As of this writing, NBA Catwatch has confirmed at least 10 cats belong to players with one more rumored. For a time it seemed that the Portland Trailblazers were the team with the most confirmed cats thanks to center Robin Lopez who owns one cat, and small forward Nicolas Batum, who owns two kitties. Batum has moved on to play for the Charlotte Hornets, so they may now be the reigning cat team in the NBA. It would seem that for the time being, where Batum goes, so goes the crown.


Nicolas Batum: Cat King of the NBA? (Photo: Christopher Johnson/Wikipedia)

The Catwatch declined to comment on which NBA cat was the cutest, they think all cats are cute in their own way. They were a bit more forthcoming regarding their favorite cat name however, citing Philadelphia Sixers Point Forward Furkan Aldemir’s cat, Firuze, a name that was confirmed to the Catwatch by Aldemir himself.

Looking forward, the Catwatch is an open book. Its owner is always willing to jump on any leads sent its way, but in the meantime the Watch is going to be taking a look at rookies this summer as they might be easier to contact, before starting to go team-by-team.

The question remains, why cats of NBA players? The Catwatch seems to have faith in the intangible curiosity of extra tall men owning delicate little furballs. “Something about NBA players and cats is the sweet spot of [athletes and pet owners],” he says, “If a baseball player owned a dog, is that interesting?” Burn.

And finally, to those who would still call NBA Catwatch just a dumb Twitter joke, Catwatch says—you’re not wrong. “It’s not a thing that I have aspirations of turning into a book deal or something like that. I’m aware that it’s ridiculous to be trying to find NBA player cats on social media,” he says, “However, it’s my niche and I got there first.”