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Calienta Bancas: NBA Podcast with Humberto Maldonado and Matias Candia

Can you please introduce yourselves?

Matias (M): I’m Matias. I’m from Argentina and, for some reason, I was first a fan of the Hornets, who have now turned into another team, but that’s the NBA. I’ve been living in Miami for seven years and I love basketball as much as soccer, but I like talking about basketball more than soccer. That’s why I have a podcast about it with Humberto.

Humberto (H): I’m Humberto, I’m from the city of Cali in Colombia, and I’m a fan of the Heat. I’ve never switched teams, but I became a bigger fan when I moved here [Miami]. I wasn’t a big fan as a kid like Matias. I loved soccer, but when I moved here, I became almost obsessed with basketball.

How did Calienta Bancas start?

M: At work we were on the same team, but the first half hour of the day we would spend talking about basketball and not working, which is how the podcast was born. It was something that we were already doing and as a joke we mentioned ‘this could be a podcast’. One day it turned from a joke into reality when we figured out that if we just put a microphone down between us it was a podcast. So, we used an iPhone to record on Humberto’s kitchen table and we talked about everything---no rules, no guides, nothing. It wasn’t that bad. I mean it was bad, but not that bad. And that’s how it started.

H: That first episode was about everything. About aliens, the universe, cartoons, and basketball. We listened to it and thought “Wow this is a disaster” but with a little bit of a focus we could have something good.

M: It lasted an hour. We said that if we could talk for an hour about anything, we’d have a podcast.

Where is the name from? Why Calienta Bancas (bench warmers)?

H: It was basically what we did: we would sit and talk about basketball. But we’re also not that good at playing, so for professionals we would actually be real bench warmers.

M: We suck. The answer is we suck at playing basketball.

H: We’d talk from the bench. And who knows more about basketball than those that sit on the bench watching it and talking about it?

M: We’ve gone to schools in the morning just to play 11 or 12-year-old kids so we can beat them.

H: And they still beat us.

Where did your love of basketball come from?

M: For me the love of basketball began thanks to Playstation, which used to be Sega Genesis. I used to play NBA Jam and NBA Live with my brother and I didn’t know anything about it but I liked the game. My brother kept filling my head full of basketball and I started to like it. Aside from being able to watch it on TV because Argentina played the games, I had the computer game and I had the Sega game. Then when I became more of a fan, I began streaming it illegally just to be able to watch my team play, since my team was never on TV.

H: I think when I first got interested was with Space Jam, like a lot of kids. But I began to pay more attention to it when Shaq started. His whole personality and everything he did with the Lakers made it hard not to pay attention to it. Then when I moved here and I started to pay more attention to all sports, I noticed that basketball has one thing other sports don’t, and that’s the fact that it’s unpredictable. In many sports, with some analysis, you can predict who will win. In basketball, on the other hand, there’s always a chance for a team to recover until the very last second, an underdog can eliminate a big team, or for things like Lebron’s historic seven game comeback in Cleveland. Other sports don’t have that. In addition to that, the fact that in some sports some athletes are never given a chance and in basketball there’s a form of equality where once the ball is up in the air, everyone has a chance to make a basket. Everyone can do everything. It’s way more versatile.

What’s the best thing that has happened to basketball in the last few years?

M: That’s a great question. And that’s a question I don’t know how to answer. I have an idea. I think when at the end of the 90s starting the 2000s when international players got to the NBA, players like Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. I would say the globalization of basketball. The new generation of basketball players that opened up basketball to the world. Now basketball is played around the whole world, not just the US. In fact, if you watch the Olympics or the World Cup, all teams are competitive and beat the US, who came in 7th in the last world cup. Not just that, but the best players in the NBA today are from Greece, France, Slovenia, and from those countries.

H: In addition to that, I think it could be the Dream Team that helped push that globalization. The Dream Team went to the Barcelona Olympics and the main stars of the NBA went: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, John Stockton. This showed the world that these guys were on a whole other level and it helped inspire people like Yao Ming, Nowitzki, and those players. But I think the most recent best thing to happen to basketball is the Big Three from the Heat.

M: Haha no bias in that answer.

H: No! It opened the doors to some super teams, which I think has defined the last decade of basketball. Before you didn’t see three mega-stars playing together on one team, rather it was about the loyalty of playing 20 years on one team. Now everyone wants to win and wants to win now, so that accelerated the evolution of basketball.

M: It could also be the worst thing that’s happened to basketball. It started to make these players want to leave their teams and completely forget their loyalty to the team where they began playing. So those are two sides to the argument.

Who’s your favorite player? H: I like players that are responsible on the court; you see them doing everything. I like Russel Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Donovan Mitchell. My favorite historic player is Dwyane Wade because he was a kind of explosive player that you never knew what you were going to face. That kind of player, quick and responsible.

M: I like all players, but if I had to pick what kind of player, I liked I would pick those that are able to not only do everything on the court but also think for the team. So, although I’m not from San Antonio, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are two players that set a standard for making those players around them better too. My favorite player is Manu because he’s Argentinian and he gave us an Olympic gold in 2004 when we beat the US and the world. He also broke the NBA, he got four titles playing with Tim Duncan and showed me that when you play as a team you can beat the Heat at the last minute. I also like other players like Steve Nash, who I believe was born at the wrong time. If he was playing today, he wouldn’t be able to stop scoring three pointers. But at the time he was more concerned with passing, he was making his team better.

What’s your process like when creating a podcast episode?

M: There are no set rules since we’re always evolving, but we always try to prepare the episode the day before, or earlier depending on the complexity of the episode. We do a google doc and we keep adding notes about points we want to talk about, then we go over it and we go record. The coolest part is when it’s the playoffs and we don’t have to pick a theme, rather the theme is what’s happening at that time and we don’t even prepare we just talk about what we saw. There’s that versus when it’s the beginning of the season or there’s no season and we have to pick a theme and prepare an analysis for it. That’s when we need more preparation.

H: There are some episodes that are just reactions to things that have happened in games and other ones that are more analysis. We’ll analyze the style of a certain team, the rules of the college league, stuff like that. But what’s important is that this podcast became a distraction from work and stress, so when we do it it’s important that it feels relaxing and like a hobby. So what we do is we sit in the morning and do what we used to do, we sit and just talk about basketball a lot. We try to make it feel organic, like a conversation. We drink a few beers, we relax.

M: It’s very important to turn on the mic. There’s been episodes that have never existed because we forgot to record, or episodes that cut off midway. All types of disasters.

What’s the hardest part of doing the podcast?

H: Finding the time. When we first started it was really simple, there could be months in-between episodes. Later on we made it every two weeks, but with work right now we’ve gone three weeks without making one.

M: It’s a good excuse. But in reality right now there’s not much to talk about since basketball and the NBA has stopped. We can talk about the fact that it’s all stopped, or we can keep waiting for things to happen to make a more complete episode. There has to be a balance, do we record more about what’s happening right now? Or do we record about complete themes? The hard part is finding what to talk about when there’s nothing to talk about or too much to talk about.

What’s your favorite part?

M: For me, the best part is doing something I like and that is fun for me, and it’s an excuse for Humberto and I to get together. I also like the interaction we have on twitter with people that listen to us and that ask for episodes when there aren’t any. They treat us almost like celebrities and we don’t even know who they are and they barely know who we are.

H: The best part is the people’s reaction. Knowing we spent a whole day talking about stupid things and that there are people that are interested in it listening to it. They even ask us to talk about certain things. The fact that they take us seriously is impressive. Also, seeing the numbers go up when we put a lot of effort in is gratifying, seeing that there’s an audience for Hispanics talking about basketball.

What has been your favorite episode?

H: My favorite one I don’t know, but the one that has done the best is the one where we talk about the corruption in college basketball. That let us know that not all episodes have to be specifically about sports analysis and that we can talk more about what’s going on at the time. So that episode was a lot of fun and it’s performed the best. The episode we made about Kobe was also very emotional, we put a lot of effort into it and it ended up very nice.

M: I think I share those two with Humberto. The one about corruption in the NCAA was like a well prepared debate and the Kobe one we didn’t prepare at all and we just recorded it, it was a catharsis. I’ll add a third one: the last episode of the first year we started recording when we did New Orleans versus Miami in the playoffs. We talked about both teams at the same time and it was a little chaotic, you can even hear the playoffs in the background.

H: We’ve made a lot of episodes that are Heat vs. New Orleans and we obviously talk a lot, but we’re not objective at all. We’re fans first.

Where do you hope this will lead you?

H: Hopefully one day this will make money so we could live off of talking about basketball. But in the meantime, as long as long as we get to keep doing it is enough.

M: Exactly, I share that too. The objective is to keep working on it so it keeps growing, and it would be a dream if at some point we could live off this. That’s why we wanted to do a Youtube channel too, to give us a wider audience and have a different format from what we did first. We won’t abandon the podcast, but now we’re going to do an audio edit and video edit that are different because the audience is different. The podcast can be longer with a lot of breaks but the video has to be quick to the point and a lot of quick cuts, so we want to start doing more of that. But in the meantime, as a hobby we love doing it.

Does being Hispanic influence your work or how you’re a basketball fan?

M: 100%. As an Argentinian I used to follow basketball before, but when Argentinian players began coming to the NBA, even if they played four minutes in a game, it was a huge success. When Manu began to explode in San Antonio, part of what kept my love of basketball all throughout my teenage years was watching Manu play. From the US you have another perspective because you know there aren’t many Hispanic players in the NBA, but you follow those few a little more. It’s not the same watching James Harden and an Argentinian or a Spanish player. We even follow the only Colombian who had a shot in the last couple of years, Braian Angola. Even though he didn’t succeed he can try again or someone else can appear.

H: I think it was the same for me. Just being in Miami the experience changes, here people view basketball way more passionately. My experience as a Hispanic in basketball is very different than Argentinian’s because Colombia is a basketball disaster, I haven’t had that experience of watching my players. But every time there’s someone who speaks Spanish, I feel like I can relate more to those kinds of players. And obviously, all of our audience is Hispanic. Hispanics here in the US, a lot of people in Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. So we always have to tell our stories with a filter knowing our audience isn’t here. We have to be conscious that there are Argentinian players in the European league or other players that we need to be following over there that are also important.

How do you see more Hispanic representation in the field?

M: I think the NBA is a meritocracy today where every year we see more of the fact that if a player is good, it doesn’t matter where they’re from. This is a bit of what I was saying about the best thing to happen to basketball in the latest few years, the arrival of foreign players. Today the NBA has scouts in practically every country looking at young kids with potential. So in terms of Hispanics in the NBA, I think it’ll continue happening as it has. The NBA now has camps in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Spain, and Venezuela where they try and work with even younger kids to develop their skills. If today there are a lot of players, there will be even more in the future.

H: In addition to that, I think we have to see how we can grow and develop talent in Colombia so eventually they can leave and come here. The NBA themselves are the first to show us that they’re interested in continuing to bring foreign talent. You can see that the interest continues to become global and there’s a lot of Latin American interest. There’s a future.

M: The NBA has been doing more than the international leagues because the leagues still need a lot of structure and development, so the NBA has done more for their development than the countries themselves. I’d like to see more done by the governments in countries like Colombia, where there’s a lot of potential but athletes don’t get there because they don’t have their skills developed when they were young.

Any words of inspiration for people doing projects like yours?

H: There are a lot of people who ask; ‘how do I make a podcast’ or ‘how do I start’ and I believe that you just have to go ahead and start it. There’s no formula. There’s no clear path on how to do it. Only once you’re actually doing it do you start to see what it requires. We didn’t start too complicated, we started recording on an iphone. But once you start you get motivated with all the things you can do. You start to see it’s not that hard. You start to see what you need, and you realize that there were a lot of limitations that you had thought you had that aren’t real. The goal is just to start. From there the path forms itself.

M: Yeah 100%. You have to lose all shame, if it comes out bad it doesn’t matter it’s just another step towards making it better. The first episodes were terrible, a complete disaster. But we didn’t care because they were uploaded, and they were there. Do it however you can and during the process you’ll make it better. But if you don’t start, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t.

H: You also can’t be scared to tell people about your project. A lot of people have helped us and added to our podcast just because we talk about it. Everyone wants to help out.

M: Everyone that knows and likes us wants to help, and those that listen to us help us also.

H: We also have enemies.

M: Everything has enemies. There’s a podcast in Chile that started six months after us where they started to talk about the NBA also, they took our name and the same format. We asked them if they could change the name so we don’t confuse people, and they came back saying no because the names were different. There’s Calienta Bancas and Los Calienta Bancas. But we’re the original Calienta Bancas.

Anything else you want to share?

M: Like and subscribe.

H: Listen to our podcast. Watch our videos

M: Follow and help other people’s projects. And if you want to do something, don’t be scared that it’ll be bad. It’ll always be ugly. No one starts as an expert.

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