(CBS Local)- Chase Budinger is one of a select few people that have ever played professionally in two sports. After being selected in the second round by the Detroit Pistons in 2009, Budinger played seven seasons in the NBA and one in Europe before retiring. He then picked up his other passion in life, volleyball, and joined the AVP beach volleyball circuit making his debut in 2018.
The next stop on the AVP Tour is New York for the New York City Open this weekend and prior to the tournament, Budinger dropped by the CBS Local Studios to discuss the transition from basketball to volleyball.
“I look at it as my next journey,” said Budinger to DJ Sixsmith. “My basketball days are over. I had seven years in the NBA, eight years professionally, and I gave a lot of things to basketball. But, now it’s on to my volleyball career and it’s been going really well so far. It’s been fun, it’s been challenging. It’s definitely something new and learning. I have been just enjoying it and taking it one step at a time.”
Budinger was a strong volleyball player in high school, leading La Costa Canyon High School to three straight state championships and being named National Player of the Year by Volleyball Magazine in his senior season in 2006. But, even with that background and years of basketball training, transitioning to the beach was difficult at first.
“The sport is a lot tougher than what I thought,” said Budinger. “I have been learning a lot on the fly this last year. The travel is ridiculous, especially the international travel. It’s pretty crazy. A month ago we had to go from Brazil to China and I think from hotel to hotel it was 44 hours.”
That said, Budinger has enjoyed getting to see some of the places that are stops on tour and he’s really just happy that his body wasn’t too beat up after his NBA career to keep him from pursuing volleyball.
Though he says his years of playing basketball, even pickup, are behind him, Budinger does carry some fun memories from his time in the NBA. He played with and learned from his mentor Shane Battier when he first came into the league with the Houston Rockets. He participated in the dunk contest in 2012, jumping over Diddy on one of his dunks. But, the most memorable moment came in his first matchup against Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
“The only time I was really star struck was when I played against Kobe for the first time,” said Budinger. “I grew up a Lakers fan so playing against him my first time was probably my one star struck moment.”
“It’s a funny story with him too because I checked into the game and I had to guard him and he comes up to me pats me on the butt and goes, ‘Welcome to the league,'” continued Budinger. “I’m like oh that’s so cool he knows I’m a rookie, that’s awesome. The next time down the court, they do a play call for him. He gets the ball in the post, and he does his fadeaway jumper towards the baseline. But, before he does that he gives me this like elbow hit right to the chest and almost knocks the wind out of me, then hits the jumper. As we’re running back down he pats me on the butt again and goes, ‘Welcome to the NBA.'”
The game has changed quite a bit since Budinger first entered the league in 2009 and retired at the end of 2016. With the advent of the Warriors dynasty, teams are more willing to spread the floor and go with smaller more athletic lineups in an attempt to match up with Golden State. The new style of play does make him wonder how different his career would have been if he had entered the league now.
“In today’s game, I could probably play four maybe some five, which is crazy,” said Budinger. “It’s crazy because I was a three and sometimes a two I would never sniff the four or five in my career. But now, just because of the small ball and how everyone is going to it, I would have been able to play those spots.”
But, despite that curiosity, Budinger doesn’t have thoughts of going back. He is all in on volleyball and looking to become the best player he can be on the beach. He and partner Casey Patterson will look to come out on top this weekend at the New York City Open. The tournament starts today, June 7th and runs through Sunday June 9th.