Sports | February 24, 2020 8:27 am

MLS Superstar Carlos Vela Is Also the League's Biggest NBA Fan

When he's on the road, LAFC forward Carlos Vela plays NBA2K, not FIFA

Why The Best Player in MLS Hates Playing FIFA
Carlos Vela during a match between Leon and LAFC. (Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty)
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During the 2019 Major League Soccer season, his second in the league, LAFC forward Carlos Vela shattered the MLS single-season scoring record with 34 goals, including a pair of hat tricks.

But even though the 2019 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner is a star in a city full of them, he isn’t that much different from your average 30-year-old.

“I am more normal than people expect,” Vela tells InsideHook. “Just a normal guy traveling far from home. I think that’s something people don’t think about. We are people, too. We miss our wives, our kids. I also have to worry about what I take, what I drink, what I eat. My body is the most important part of my play, so I have to take care of that. It’s all about the body and being healthy. You have to have good food and good hydration. BODYARMOR helps keep me in good shape and to always be ready for that kind of exercise. Nobody thinks about that. People just think we go, we play, and everything is fun. But it’s more complicated than that.”

Vela puts his shorts on one leg at a time, relies on sports drinks like BODYARMOR to stay hydrated and plays video games on his handheld PlayStation PSP. According to Vela, his PSP is his most important possession when he’s on the road with LAFC and the Mexican National Team for away games. But he isn’t playing what you might think.

“I hate FIFA,” he says. “I like NBA2K. If I’m free, I play NBA2K. They can be really long days.”

In fact, Vela, who had a $6.3 million salary for LAFC in 2019 as the first Designated Player in club history, says he prefers basketball to the sport for which he’s famous.

Carlos Vela shoots the ball against Minnesota United in 2019. (Photo by David Berding/Getty)
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And make no mistake, Vela takes the games he plays on his PSP just as seriously as the ones he plays on the pitch. “If I lose, I turn off the PlayStation and start again,” he says. “I don’t like to lose.”

His team of choice to play with, he says, is the Lakers. And his favorite player, like many 30-year-olds, is LeBron James.

“He’s one of the greatest players the NBA,” Vela says. “Now at 36, he’s still better than much younger guys. I like the way he plays every game, how he takes care of his body and how athletic he is. It’s crazy how good he is at his age. He’s someone other players would try to copy.”

Though Vela and James have yet to cross paths in Los Angeles, he’s hopeful it will happen.

“I hope I can meet him soon because he’s my favorite player and is a big motivator for me to be a great athlete and try to bring my team to the top of the league,” Vela says. “I hope I can have the experience of meeting him.”

If Vela keeps scoring goals in 2020 like he did in 2019 after the MLS season kicks off at the end of the month, maybe it’ll be James clamoring to meet him.