BILLINGS — For most, video games are just an addictive hobby.
But 25-year-old John Mushaben is proving playing video games can pay off. Literally.
“The whole leading up to the draft, it was pretty exhausting. It was my birthday the day before the draft, too," Mushaben said.
In February, Mushaben became the first professional gamer out of Montana when he was picked 18th overall in the NBA 2KLeague draft by Hawks Talon GC.
He’ll practice in the same facility where the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks play their games, and Mushaben and his teammates get have catered food and team gear. Not bad, especially when you learn the Shepherd High grad will likely make a six-figure annual salary after competing in several tournaments.
“I still don’t think it’s real. This is absolutely insane. I don’t know how I got here, but I’m glad I am here,” John said.
And if you think that sounds crazy, you’re not alone. So does Mushaben’s dad – popular Billings radio personality Paul Mushaben, who has co-hosted the Breakfast Flakes for over 35 years.
“People told me many years ago, ‘You’re going to try to make a living in radio? Are you crazy?’ and I made it work. So when John said 'I think I can make a living playing NBA 2k' I said 'OK, go ahead,'" Paul said.
“He was the last one in my family I told all this about. I told my siblings, they loved it, were freaking out. I told my mom. My dad was the last one," John said. "Once I explained to my dad and provided him tangible prove that this is a legitimate option, a legitimate career path for me, he was on board.”
John’s three siblings are wildly successful. The oldest sister, Mallory, is a respiratory therapist, while the other, Maddy, is a chemical engineer. His brother Jake is in his residency to become an orthopedic surgeon. While John has staying power in the league, it could open doors in the business world, too.
“I’ll think about being a general manager or a coach or something, but if that doesn’t work out, later on down the road, I love sports and I love the NBA so if this domino’d into a job with an NBA team, that’d be perfect, too," John said.
But if he winds up back on the ranch in Broadview?
“If he’s living with me, if he’s pulling up to the table with a fork, he’s going to go back to college," said Paul.
John is down in Atlanta about to embark on a 42-game regular season that will last until August.