How Video Games Keep Atlanta Hawks Star Trae Young Mentally Fit

The 23-year-old stays young by firing up "Call of Duty" in his off-hours

July 5, 2022 6:30 am
Trae Young in front of a pink digital landscape.
Could video games really play a role in an effective recovery routine? Trae Young thinks so.
Rick Osentoski/Getty

Trae Young grew up playing video games with his father, and it should come as no surprise that his initial favorite titles were the basketball ones.

“I was playing all of the NBA and NCAA games that I could get my hands on,” he says. Of course, Young can now play as himself in the latest release of NBA 2K, but back then the star point guard went with league idols like Allen Iverson and Vincent Carter. “I was in grade school watching those guys, and I vividly remember Vince dunking on everything.”

These days, when the two-time NBA All-Star player turns on his gaming console, he prefers something completely unrelated to his day job. “I really enjoy logging on to play Call of Duty with friends and family after a long day of training,” says Young. As a fan, it was a natural fit when the Activision team reached out to him to star in a new campaign promoting their highly-anticipated Modern Warfare 2.

Skills coach Alex Bazzell, who works with players like Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony, in addition to Young, believes that finding hobbies that exercise the mind outside of sport can be useful: “There’s a lot of pressure at this level, and it’s healthy to be able to escape from it for a few hours.” InsideHook spoke with Young about his history with gaming, how it fits into his daily routine and how he’s preparing for the 2022-2023 NBA season. 

InsideHook: Do you remember the first time you played Call of Duty?

Trae Young: I didn’t start playing any shooting or first person shooter games until I was in six grade, because I wasn’t allowed. But as soon as I was able to I really enjoyed them. That’s when I started playing Halo and of course Call of Duty. I played in whatever settings or modes I could. I would play online and would also go over to friends’ houses or have them come over. I really enjoyed the Zombies mode in Call of Duty back then. It was just a great way to have fun and do something different with the crew.

Do you have a favorite release or season of Call of Duty?

I have always been a big fan of the Modern Warfare games that Call of Duty has released. I really feel like that this next one is going to be the best and biggest one ever. I have been given a little of an inside-look already, and from what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told it’s going to be very enjoyable for everyone.

Do you have much time do you have to play these days?

I won’t lie: you’ve got a lot of time to yourself when you make the pros. Each day that you’re done playing and training, and definitely when you’re in the off-season…I played a ton in college, too, especially when we were on the road. So there is time to get games in. I try to get online whenever I can. It’s a great way for me to stay connected with my friends back home, and especially with my family. I have a little gaming area carved out for myself in both my homes, so I can play whether I’m in Atlanta, Georgia or in Oklahoma.

Who do you play with the majority of the time?

My brother. I’m a gamer, but my brother takes it to that next level. He’s the one with all of the gear, and I’ve hooked him up with a lot of it. But he’s definitely kitted up better than me. He’s got all the different controllers. I have the most fun getting to play with him actually, because he’s so good that he can carry me on it. But I’m always down to play games with whoever. 

I play both Xbox or Playstation, so I am able and down to squad across the board. I’ll sometimes jump on social media to see if there are any friends or fans who want to get some games in.

How would you describe yourself as a gamer? Are you intense when you play Call of Duty or are you pretty chill?

I am chill until somebody starts talking trash to me, then it’s gone. I’m alright at the trash talking. I don’t need any practice trash talking. 

Do you play with anyone from the Hawks or the rest of the league?

I’ll be honest, my team in the NBA is more of a 2K playing type of crew. So I usually get on there with the OG crew or the family. But I’d be down to run with a few new people if I can find some. 

The trailers for the game are racking up millions of views. How was it being on set with actors like Barry Sloane, who plays Captain Price?

It was so cool to be at the shoot with all the actors. I got to hear a lot more about the game that will be coming out this year, so it was nice to be on the inside circle for a bit there. And I actually got to meet a lot of people who worked on the game — not just the actors. 

The next NBA season will have started by the time the game hits the masses. Does your gaming ability decline play when you’re in season? I’m guessing it’s a bit more difficult.

Definitely. Finding the time gets harder when we’re in season, although I will still jump on if an occasion arrives where we have a few days off. I like playing a fighting game like Call of Duty, because it’s my way to get away from basketball and still get to be a part of a team. I enjoyed all the basketball games growing up, and still do, but it’s a little different these days now that it’s my reality. 

The tagline for Modern Warzone 2 is “The ultimate weapon is team.” Getting into a little basketball here, I’m guessing that you have a pretty great team working to get you ready for the season — beyond your crew from the Atlanta Hawks.

I have multiple people that I work with during the preseason and during the season like Alex Bazzell, Travelle Gaines and more. I’m lucky to have a great squad that helps me improve and be better every single day. 

Do you have any personal mantras or beliefs when it comes to training?

I have always worked hard when it comes to training. I find that it’s only when I put in that good work that I get the results that I personally want. So there’s holding back when we get into the gym or on the court. I’m usually hitting three sessions in a day when we’re in that mode. I work out in the morning, then have breakfast, get on the court a little bit, and then get a lift, eat again, and then get some shots in during the evening. We can all be a better version of ourselves; I’m trying to make myself ready for this next season as best I can.

How do you recover after a heavy session?

I have Hypervolts around the house that I will use once I’m down with training. I also make sure to set aside a proper amount of time to recover during the offseason. That’s what I am in the midst of now. I’m enjoying this time during the summer when I can really relax. 

There‘s been a lot that you have already accomplished in your career. Do you have any stats or moments that you are especially proud of?

I am not someone who cares about my own individual stats. They especially don’t come before what we accomplish as a team. I want to win a championship. That’s the only thing that is on my mind.

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