Phoenix Suns star Deandre Ayton had a hard time playing basketball in high school because he was so used to playing video games. He’d spend hours on the court, only to come home and play more NBA 2K 18. But when it came down to training for his professional career, he realized that gaming wasn’t enough anymore – something that surprised him considering how well-rounded of an athlete he is.

Deandre Ayton is a 20-year-old basketball player who plays for the Phoenix Suns. In his spare time, he loves playing video games and watching Netflix. Read more in detail here: deandre ayton.

Why Phoenix Suns star Deandre Ayton can't live without video games

Suns center Deandre Ayton is locked in at the Footprint Center in Phoenix on a Monday afternoon.

He isn’t thinking about his team’s impending game against the Los Angeles Lakers the following day, nor is he thinking about a playoff run or his contract discussions with the Suns. Right now, the most serious issue on his mind is deciding which video game to play first.

Ayton, who is 23, is an avid gamer. Gaming has always been there for him in any capacity he requires: closest friend, therapist, and biggest fan. Most importantly, gaming has provided Ayton with a virtual community that has assisted him in navigating the problems he has in the real world.

“I don’t believe I could live without the game,” Ayton adds emphatically.

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Ayton stands with his controller in hand in the middle of the Annexus Social Club, a lounge hidden in plain sight for VIP ticket holders to cheer on their favorite team. He scans the list of games preloaded on his PlayStation 5: World War Z: Aftermath; Fortnite; Call of Duty: Warzone Season 2; Grand Theft Auto V. Ayton’s personal game room has been turned into the lounge, replete with his new ASUS gaming PC and preferred PS5 linked to a 34-foot-by-20-foot-high screen. Ayton’s eyes twinkle with a youthful glimmer, and a slight grin crosses his lips. NBA 2K22 is Ayton’s go-to game.

Ayton chooses one of approximately 10 Deandre Aytons he’s made at practically every position on the floor in the game’s lobby. He starts a game and looks for his headset to hear what his virtual teammates and opponents are saying.

“These guys need to talk s***!”

To wander through The Neighborhood, Ayton clothes his character in a silver, shimmering suit, blinged-out jewelry that mirrors his real-life items, black Crocs, and a pair of purple googly-eyed spectacles. He takes a breather.

“What happened to my tiger?”

Deandre Ayton, 23, is a huge video game fan. The Phoenix Suns player spends numerous hours online competing with friends, family members, and anybody else who is ready to take him on. ESPN’s Jesse Rieser

As a youngster, his mother gave him the nickname “Tiger.” As ridiculous as the clothing is, the programmed Deandre Ayton has a swagger and confidence about him that seems faintly familiar. Dominayton is the leader on the NBA 2K floor, a thrill-seeker who will attempt all the new plays that will either gain him praise or send him back to the playbook. Deandre Ayton isn’t hesitant to imitate his cyber doppelgänger in real life. The dunks, the blocks and overall display of domination on the court — he’s averaging 18.8 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game this postseason — usually begin with practicing on his PS5.

“It’s almost like watching your favorite player on YouTube and doing the same thing he does all the time, or seeing Kobe make the same fade. You want to do it, right? “According to Ayton. “I go out there and attempt to replicate it.”

It’s evident that Ayton is a committed gamer after seeing him play NBA 2K on the big screen. He claims that his family comes first, and as the father of a one-year-old son, Deandre Jr., and fiancée, Anissa Evans, he always finds time for them. But every day, he’ll sit down and play NBA 2K for many hours (at least four or five). This is how Ayton achieved Legend status in the game, which is earned after four seasons of achieving Level 40. Ayton thinks he is the lone NBA player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“I don’t know how I did it this year since I had a kid,” Ayton adds, “but I did it.”

After barely two hours of sleep, Ayton usually wakes up around 6 a.m. After breakfast, he has time for a brief round of gaming before heading to practice. After that, it’s time to go home and continue talking trash and practicing moves on the virtual court. Ayton is focused on game days, but his routine still includes time for video games.

“It’s quite difficult for me to fall asleep after lengthy games, particularly huge, long games,” Ayton admits. “I’m not sure why, but the game keeps me occupied. I communicate with some of my acquaintances. In the United Kingdom, I have brothers. In Jamaica and the Bahamas, I have relatives. We speak trash throughout that game. We chat about and joke about someone we just beat up on. I’m not sleeping till 4 or 5 a.m. That’s how bad the situation becomes.”

Alvin, Ayton’s stepfather, got him his first console when he was 11, but he left it behind when he went to America. He spent three years without using a game console. He’ll probably never let go now. ESPN’s Jesse Rieser


Since he was a boy growing up in the Bahamas, AYTON has found refuge in video games. Andrew, his elder brother, was always playing and beating the toughest levels on the games he had.

“They had every game that was popular,” Ayton explains.

When Ayton turned 11, his stepfather, Alvin, got him a new PlayStation, but he quickly abandoned it in favor of another sport: basketball. On Monday, Ayton registered in the Jeff Rodgers Basketball Camp. Scouts were at the family home on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Alvin, to chat about their kid.

“Everyone there witnessed his height,” Alvin explains. “He stood at the same height as older men. He seemed to be about 16, yet he was only 11 years old.”

By the end of the summer, Ayton had begun making plans to relocate to the United States to pursue his basketball dreams. The Balboa School in Escondido, California, was ultimately chosen. Ayton was happy for the chance, but she underestimated the amount of effort involved in the program. He’d get a free education and equipment to further his talents as a player at the private school, but the program demanded a rigid and demanding schedule.

“[The program] consisted of school,” Ayton adds, “but I wasn’t getting up at 5 a.m. to do weights or run a track.” “That’s not anything we agreed upon. We heard something about free schooling. We haven’t heard anything about labor. ‘Hold on, what is this?’ I think to myself.”

Ayton battled the sense of being alone in a strange land. He claims he was instantly targeted by bullies because of his height and Bahamian accent. Worst of all, he didn’t have his PlayStation to contact with his family and friends online on a daily basis.

“I felt cut off from the rest of the world because of the way I play and where I came from, my size, and perhaps even my skin color,” Ayton adds. “When I initially arrived in the United States, I got the impression that I was alone. You want to fit in, but the youngsters aren’t interested in hanging out with you.”

He was overcome by emotions of isolation and rejection. While he was unable to verbalize his emotions at the time, Ayton now realizes he was suffering from anxiety and sadness.

“I’d never wish it on anybody,” adds Ayton. “That kind of behavior tears a hole in your heart. You have a large heart, but no one can see it. You want to offer your heart to someone, but no one wants it. And I had it when I was young, when I didn’t want to be here. I was not looking forward to being here.”

“Ain’t no console, I say. I don’t have anything to put on this mug? Isn’t there any video game? A basketball, instead. That’s it. Basketball and reading. It was difficult “he admits. “I just started serious about basketball because I didn’t have anybody else. I didn’t have much, so basketball was my own personal outlet for having fun.”

Andrea, his mother, confesses that it was tough for her as well.

“‘Mommy, I’m tired,’ he would say at times. I’d want to return home.’ I assured him things will get better as a mother, and he listened. He was a completely different guy after the chats. It was difficult. There were a lot of tears and disappointments. The tension was palpable.”

Ayton became a basketball powerhouse at the age of 15, and his mother moved to America to be closer to her son. Furthermore, Ayton’s host family surprised him with a new PlayStation 4. Ayton revealed everyone his gamer tag and reconnected with friends and family he’d lost contact with during his three-year absence. His people had returned.

“Every day, I took care of that [PS4], cleaning the vent every day,” Ayton explains.

When he plays NBA 2K, Ayton transforms into ten distinct versions of himself. The avatars may take on diverse roles, but they all have the same goal: to win. ESPN’s Jesse Rieser


WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL, Ayton promised anybody who would listen in internet chatrooms that he was going to be a major basketball player. He was going to be successful.

“They thought I was spewing the greatest nonsense ever,” adds Ayton.

Mutual acquaintances from the Bahamas were among the finest buddies Ayton remained in contact with online. Others were complete strangers who chuckled as they listened to a crazy adolescent rant about being the country’s highest-ranked 10th student and his far-fetched hopes of being a top NBA draft choice.

While people continued to dismiss Ayton’s ideas, two gamers from his native nation, Recarno Nixon and Joshua Russell, listened to Ayton and supported his ambitions.

“I remember it being 4 a.m. one morning like it was yesterday,” Ayton adds. “‘Yo, dude, you’ve always been there for me,’ I said. When they go through the process, I’ll be the first choice. I’ll make certain you’re there with me.”

The moment has arrived on June 21, 2018, after years of calling his future goals into life. The Suns selected the 6-foot-11-inch, 250-pound center out of Arizona first overall.

Russell could count on Ayton to keep his promise.

“That was the first time I met him,” Ayton explains.

Ayton’s gaming community also aided him in getting through the toughest times of his basketball career. His name was included in the FBI’s federal corruption investigation into college basketball, which included the University of Arizona, during his first year at college in 2017-18. During a federal criminal trial in 2019, a wiretap recording of a phone call between former runner and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins and business partner Munish Sood was played. Dawkins claimed that then-Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller “fronted” a deal to ensure the Wildcats signed Ayton. (Dawkins was found guilty of conspiracy and bribery.) The allegations have been refuted by Miller and Ayton.)

As an NBA rookie, Ayton also relied on video games. In the 2018-2019 season, the Suns failed to establish a rhythm, winning just 19 games and finished last in the Western Conference.

Ayton recalls, “I wasn’t accustomed to losing.” “‘Oh, so this is the NBA,’ I think. Every game you lose.’ Those L’s came fast, and I was over here worrying, ‘Bro, we’re out of it.’ ‘Boy, you still have 81 more to go,’ they said. Again, we were defeated. ‘You still have 80 to go, dude.’”

Ayton began playing NBA 2K. He could at least redeem himself in the game if his team couldn’t win in real life.

Fortunately, there was optimism for the next season. Ayton led the team with 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Fans are looking forward to his second campaign. Ayton had 18 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks in the Suns’ 124-95 triumph against the Sacramento Kings in the 2019-2020 season opening.

The following day, Ayton realized he had broken the league’s anti-drug code after testing positive for a diuretic, and his enthusiasm and excitement for the season faded. A 25-game penalty was imposed on him.

“I tell you,” Ayton recalls, “the worst time to play [NBA 2K] was during the ban.” “I was being attacked by the youngsters. I choose the basketball game that follows everything about the NBA and walked into the devil’s pit out of all the games I could play. I’m not even going to mention the lion’s lair. It was the pit of the devil, and I was beaten up every day while playing the game.”

Twenty-five.

Deandre should be in the gym, but he’s here instead.

It’s no surprise he was suspended.

“I’m hearing everything,” adds Ayton. “Even though I’m up against the wall, I’m still playing this game. I couldn’t care less. You’ll see me throughout the game. Being in the video game and facing a 25-game punishment is like being surrounded by a hundred people who despise you and shout at you. Go into the game world, whomever you think you are. Those folks are going to inform on you.”

On April 4, 2022, Ayton plays video games with a customised controller at the Footprint Center in Phoenix. ESPN’s Jesse Rieser

Ayton maintained his playing condition, but his video game playing time grew from four to five hours per day to all day. Ayton returned from his ban, but the NBA season was halted indefinitely due to the COVID-19 epidemic a few months later.

Ayton might manage the uncertainty better than other athletes. He and his girlfriend had just found out they were expecting their first kid, but he would be gone from her when he rejoined his team in the bubble. He was apprehensive, but as long as he had his games, everything else will fall into place.

“Those guys weren’t accustomed to that,” adds Ayton. “They won’t be able to sit and enjoy the game for that long. You could see they were going insane inside. They were at a loss for what to do. Dudes attempting to enjoy the weather by venturing outdoors. It’ll be the same perspective as before, dude. You won’t see anything else but the pond. So I’m over here playing the game, having a good time and talking trash. In the bubble, that game saved my life.”


Ayton has returned to the ANNEXUS CLUB to battle zombies in World War Z.

“I play World War Z and get a little frightened out,” Ayton jokes. “That is, after all, a serious game. It becomes rather frightening. They’re noisy, they’re unsightly, and you need to put them down and get rid of them.”

Ayton rises up, controller in hand, and demonstrates a new level of concentration with this game. In certain ways, he uses his abilities strategically. When zombies multiply and overrun Ayton’s character in other zones, he must think quickly. Even when taken off guard, Ayton makes sure his character is the one who survives.

“I’m fighting against people who despise me,” Ayton explains. “I’ve always felt disliked, and I still do, but it doesn’t mean I’m down on myself. No. All I want to do is prove you incorrect.”

Ayton has dominated this year’s playoff race. The Suns are up 3-2 on the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, and he’s one of the league’s hottest playoff shooters. In Game 5, Ayton logged his 13th career playoff game with 20 points while shooting 60% from the field, the second-most by any Suns player in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Ayton says, “Oh, I’m feeling confident.”

On May 10, 2022, Ayton shoots over Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber. In Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Suns upset the Mavs 110-80, with Ayton scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds. USA TODAY Sports/Joe Camporeale

His future in Phoenix is still up in the air. Last October, the Suns were unable to reach a deal with Ayton, who was seeking a five-year contract for a guaranteed $172.5 million. Despite this, he is unconcerned about where he will spend the offseason.

“That’s simply the game, period,” he adds, “just understanding that you have to take care of business to get what you want.”

Ayton utilizes video games to stay grounded while depending on his family as the Suns struggle through the playoffs. Ayton shares a room with his girlfriend and kid while on the road. They’ve developed a rhythm in which Ayton Jr. plays basketball with toys strewn over the hotel room floor. Anissa enjoys watching Netflix. Deandre unwinds as Dominayton assumes command of the virtual court. Deandre feels at ease in these situations.

“Gaming helps me maintain my equilibrium. That is something I will never give up. Right now, I’m on the way… It’s merely a break where I may play the game and relax for a while before returning to work “According to Ayton. “It’s just basketball and video games. That is what allows me to perform this sport because it keeps my mind fresh.”

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