Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ground Zero

It was a day like any other day.

6:30am: Scarf down a bowl of Chobani yogurt sprinkled with granola, fresh-cut strawberries, and a squirt of honey.

7:00am: Swing open the doors of the legendary UCLA SAC gym, wide-eyed, scanning the premises for which hot shot I'll have the pleasure of working besides next.

The Phoenix Suns pretending to listen to her.

7:05am: Give Kari and Lindsey the business in roughly ten games of 21.

8:30am: Shower to Backstreet Boys Pandora.

9:00am: Air dry my goldilocks mid-sprint through campus in order to reach the parking meter in time before another hefty $68 ticket plops down on my windshield.

10:00am: Clock in.

For the first hour of my shift, it's my job to set up the bar.

Yes, the one who does not know an iota about alcohol is in charge of setting up the bar.

About ten minutes in, Karlen tells me that we're low on raspberries.

That's my cue.

To the fridge I go.

That is, until I hear a voice.

"HEY!"

I look up.

I laugh.

It's Russell.

"Why do I know you from somewhere?? I've seen you!" he proclaimed aloud.

Smirking to myself, I mumble, "UCLA."

"Yes! The transfer! But I swear I just saw you somewhere else too..."

"Wasserman."

"Yeah! The intern!"

"You're following me, Russ."

"No, you're following me. What are you even doing right now?"

"I'm a cocktail waitress."

I googled "waitress"

He's seen me for who I truly am, folks: the athlete, the intern, the waitress.

Russ took a seat at the bar as I filled up his protein shake. We hung out for 20 minutes while he waited for his trainer to come down from his room.

We talked about UCLA.

He said he would have loved to have been there for longer than two years. They were some of the best times of his life.

We talked about the Thunder.

He told me it would be a great fit for me, if I could handle the move back to Oklahoma...

We talked about life after basketball.

He told me he would never coach.

"I'm getting as far away from basketball as I can."

"Really? You don't want to coach your kids??"

"NOOOOOPE."

"So... fashion?"

"Fashion" he replied with a big smile on his face.


We talked about his back-to-back runs to the Final Four.

He lost to the one and only Coach Billy Donovan at Florida his freshman year.

"Coach never lets me hear the end of that one."

We talked about how old he is.

He's an old fart.

He's played in the league for 10 years already. Can you believe that??

As I contemplated grabbing the raspberries Karlen told me to snag while I prepped the bar, I couldn't help but remain distracted as fans gathered around hoping to steal Russell away for a quick selfie.

And there I was, the cocktail waitress in the black dress, hijacking all of his attention.

I couldn't help but laugh.

The amount of times I have run into this guy in this city.

Whether it be mid pick-up game in Pauley, in the elevator on my way up to Wasserman, or at the bar of the JW Marriott in Santa Monica, there was something special brewing here.

I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.

___________

It was a day like any other day.

Chobani, SAC, 21, BSB, floppy hair, BEACH.

Today was an off day.

After my morning routine, I took one hard look at my car and knew it was time. She needed a shine.

Kari was at the gym working out a girl she trains, so I decided after I dusted off the fender of the 'ol Ford Focus I would pick her up and we would grab lunch.

I pulled up to Pauley at noon, but for some reason Kari wanted me to come in and meet her.

I took one step inside the gym, and shook my head.

There he was again. The MVP.

"STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" he cried aloud.

We both had the biggest smiles plastered on our faces.

In order to quickly change that, we played pig.


One deep corner 3, rainbow floater, and lefty jump hook later, I dehorned the goat.


___________

As we're all aware, the last time I left you all, I was at a crossroads.

Earlier this morning I was at that same crossroads.

What next?

I'll tell you what I thought was next.

I had my mind made up on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

You heard it. Philly.

Not Oklahoma City, not Nashville, not New York, Philly.

Then

And now

A good family friend, Matt Fraschilla, (hi Matt) is now the current GA at Villanova. He has a place with a spare bedroom. "My" spare bedroom.

Being a two-hour train ride from New York, the possibility of cheering my little brother on from the stands during his rookie season lit me up from head to toe.

And the icing on the cake?

It was free.

How do you say no to that??

I'll tell you how.

Starts with a J and ends with an ob.

I didn't have a job offer in Philly.

What would I do there? Who do I know there? How could I live there?

It snows and stuff.

Despite my lack of employment, I was gungho about this idea.

"The job will come later," I kept telling myself.

Free rent doesn't come around too often and neither do NBA rookie seasons, so I had my mind made up. I was moving to Philly.

That was, until I became friends with Russ.


___________

My calling in life can be broken down into three bullet points:

-Use the gifts God has given me to spread joy to others.

-Use the gifts God has given me to spread God to others.

-Use the gifts God has given me to help others feel confident they can do it too.

Russell showed me how.

As I stated in my last blog, my head coach offered me a job to work for UCLA. Her vision is to showcase UCLA in a way that I kinda already naturally do.

Show the world how great this university really is.


It's right up my alley.

But for the longest time I had severe doubts floating around my head. Saying yes to her meant saying no to Philly. It meant remaining 1,787 miles away from my mom and dad. It meant running the risk of dating beautiful men with low morals. It meant paying half my salary in rent. It meant staying put.

And trust me, telling Miss Spontaneity to stay put isn't an easy task.

After two years of hittin' it, it's typically time for me to start quittin' it.

But after meeting Russell, something finally clicked.

I can do both.

I don't have to be tied down to one location. I'm no longer a collegiate athlete who has to be on call 24/7/365. I get weekends. And weekends mean travel.

___________

Oftentimes people try to put themselves in a box way too early.

We think we aren't living up to our expectations we set for ourselves, or really, the expectations others set for ourselves, so we quickly say yes to the first opportunity that comes a' knockin' in order to feel like we did what we were supposed to.

We graduated, we got the job, we're adulting.

But are we happy?

After I graduated I was on a quest to impress.

I had made a lot of connections at UCLA, and I was eagerly awaiting the next glorious opportunity to be handed to me on a silver platter.

That silver platter never showed up.

What did show up is my consistency.

I don't know what I'm passionate about, but I do know I love to work.

It doesn't matter if that work looks like restocking a bar, or traveling the world and covering major sports events.

It had taken me 23 years to realize that what others thought about my job status meant diddly squat. If I'm passionate about restocking raspberries then by golly I will restock those raspberries to the best of my abilities.

That being said, I don't think I'm super passionate about restocking raspberries.

Which meant I was back to square one-- what next?

___________

Just a few days after my last blog post a UCLA donor contacted me.

He offered me a full-time job at his record label, Blue Elan. My title? Social Media Manager.

Because of this blog, this very blog, I was offered a job.

A couple days after the offer my mom called me up.

She wanted to know if I was free the weekend of October 21st.

To shoot a pilot for a travel show a production company wants to do with the two of us.

After morning ball the following day, Baron Davis texted me and told me he would love to be featured in an episode and would like to discuss more over coffee.

The next night... Coach Cori told me that she could find me a living situation in LA.

___________

After a few agonizing weeks of tossing and turning every night, the jig was up.

A decision had been made.

No matter how hard I try to hide it, I can't leave this place.

I can't leave LA.

Not yet at least. Not like this. Not to Philadelphia. Not now.

I am surrounded by the best of the best.

I am loved by some of the most beloved.

I am infatuated with palm trees, fluffy sand, zero humidity, no bugs, summer breezes, and Philz Coffee.

I am not here simply to pass through.

I am on a mission to make the city of Los Angeles home.

I am where I belong.

So many people stereotype this place.

"There's too much traffic."
"The people are crazy."
"It smells like weed."
"It's way too expensive."

I believe God has planted me here to break the mold.

And God gave me Russell to prove it.

LA isn't as big as it seems; it's as big as you make it.

If you want to find a solid, God-fearing friend group, you will find it.

If you want that dream job, chances are you'll eventually get it.

If you only want to take, take, take, you'll always come up empty.

As much as I thought my heart was leading me to Philadelphia--somewhere closer to home, somewhere where Catholicism runs deeps, somewhere new--he was trying to tell me all along that I can have all of that and more if I just sit still.

I'm in a transitional stage of my life. My life is going to be different whether I like it or not.

So what was I running from??

Coach Cori offered me a job to do what I do best:

Love Los Angeles.


With the help of UCLA production, I will be able to market athletes for who they truly are. Whether it be for UCLA, the Lakers, the Clippers, or the Rams, I will be traveling around LA and beyond in order to showcase athletes in a light they have never been showcased before.


I get to use the gifts God has given me to spread joy to athletes.

I get to use the gifts God has given me to spread God to athletes.

I get to use the gifts God has given me to help athletes feel confident they can do it too.

Everyone has a story to tell.

And it's my job to share it.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Undrafted

"There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports."


SO YOU'RE SAYING I HAVE A CHANCE?!

I used to scoff at that commercial.

Why? 

My dad played in the NBA. He did it.

I was recruited by almost every school in the nation. I did it.

I'm going pro.

I'm one of a kind.

I'm the best there ever was.
I'm currently working at the JW Marriott.

As a cocktail waitress.

My get-up
I know what you're thinking.

She's hit rock bottom.

Not so fast! I now know the difference between Kettle One and Tito's.

Swimming knee deep in chardonnays and pinos? Let me enlighten you on the difference between which have been locally fermented in the vineyards of Napa, and which have been imported from the sprawling countrysides of Italy.

And don't get me started on our seasonal raspberry mules and summer shandys!  

After graduation my aunt, uncle, and 3 precious little cousins took me out to dinner. They flew all the way out to California from Florida to support me on my big day. They were staying at an airbnb in Venice Beach. One of their buddies owned it.

My Florida fam is super outdoorsy. They're the version of myself I still hope to become. They surf. They sail. They're musically inclined.

With that being said, I was hoping to wow them with my surfing prowess that afternoon. I strapped my board to the top of my car and met them in Venice. 


The airbnb was beautiful. A two-story beach house a block from the water. The owner and his wife, Imen, were amazing. Imen is now my manager. At the JW Marriott.

Long story long, she convinced me to give the hotel business a shot. I could tell how much she loved her job the way she lit up when she talked about it.

Was I missing something here?

Is the food and beverage department in the hospitality industry the secret to happiness???

7 days and a 70-hour work week later I can tell you that it's...

Not exactly what I thought it was going to be.

But it has taught me so much so quickly.

I really do take pleasure in a 4-star beachfront resort overlooking the water. It's quite lovely serving guests in the beautiful California sunshine.

And the people! I've made a myriad of friends from all walks of life. Some of the most humble, hardworking, nose-to-the-grindstone co-workers I think I'll ever have.

Plus, I'm making some cash monnnaayyy if youknowwhaimsayyyin.

____________


My lease ends in a month.

College is over.

For those of you who know me, you know I can't sit still. I have to be doing something. If I'm not, I drive myself crazy. And yes, sometimes sitting on my butt not doing anything is something and I'm okay with that. But I have a limit. If the limit is exceeded, I lose my cool.

So, why not take up bartending?

Why not dive into an area totally untapped by my cerebral cortex and give it a shot?

I mean I did graduate from UCLA. How hard could it be?

It's been the hardest 7 days of my life. Just ask my roommates. They've seen me at my worst. That's if they see me. 

I leave at 9am and get home at 9pm, battling traffic to & fro.

Then I eat dinner.

Then I shower.

Then I go to bed.

Then I wake up and do it all over again.

____________


My head coach at UCLA offered me a part-time job working for UCLA athletics.

This was before my newfound gig as "diner girl."

My role would be to emcee basketball games, create behind-the-scenes videos with athletes, and--within the confines of women's basketball--dabble in broadcast television. 

After basketball season ended I got an internship at Wasserman. It's a world-renowned sports agency, one that represents some of the best clientele in the world.

Russell Westbrook was a frequent visitor.

One evening at the office I took the elevator down with him and took him to get his car washed. That internship was cool.

Two weeks ago, I was camp director for the UCLA basketball camps and had to consistently kick off the Los Angeles Sparks, Kanye West, Real Madrid, and Kyrie Irving from the practice courts. 

Only at UCLA.

Two days ago, I had an interview at CBS in Los Angeles. I met with the GM. The same GM who was my mom's GM when she worked for CBS in Dallas.

This morning I found out I got the part and will be cast in an Under Armour commercial.

Sounds a little more "Nicole", am I right?

These are the kinds of opportunities I regurgitate to people when they ask me what I want to do for the rest of my life.

But what people don't know is that I haven't said yes to any of them. 

(Except for the Under Armour commercial because that's just flat-out sick).

It's been two months since Coach Cori offered me the job and I haven't said yes.

Coach, I know you're reading this and I know you're wondering what I'm about to say next.

I don't know if I want to do it.

I don't know if I want to stay in California.

One day I do. And the next day I don't.

I love this city with all of my heart. We all know this. We're all annoyed by this.

But facts are facts-- my rent is $1200 for a single bedroom and I live with 4 other girls. 

No AC, no dishwasher, a broken microwave, squeaky floors, zero closet space, and the funniest lookin' half bath that you ever did see.

All 1 sq. ft. of it

But boy let me tell you.

10985 Roebling Ave. will live on forever.

I had the best year of my life in that apartment. 

From L to R, back to front:
Sangria, Dom, The Protestant, Mom, Graham, and me

But everything boils down to one question:

What next?

After my fourth day in a row at the Marriott, I was reaching a breaking point.

I'm not supposed to be a part of that 400,000 who goes pro in something other than sports. And last time I checked, bartending doesn't even qualify me under the 400,000 who do. I'm in a category all by myself.  

____________


Day 4 of work:

8:15am

Wake up, roll over, hit stop, lazily get out of bed.

"Here we go again."

The glamorous real world. Hitting me square in the face.

An hour later, I clock in.

Time to fill up ice buckets, wipe down sticky countertops, and fold napkins.

Time to roll up my sleeves and serve the good-good.

After finding a spare minute to continue my newfound talent in the art of origami, commonly referred to as napkin folding, crease by crease and linen by linen my hope for a better future felt unattainable. That was until a sudden cloud of darkness enveloped me. It was a figure. Part man. Part beast.

It was Steven Adams holding a liter of organic milk. 


"Will you put this on the rocks for me, my love?"

Many of you know Allen Iverson is my go-to guy. The wind beneath my wings. The bread to my butter. The fairy to my tale.

After yesterday, Steven Adams became one gangly mustache hair away from taking the crown.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were checking into the JW Marriott on Ocean Ave. 

My JW Marriott on Ocean Ave.

As my Oklahoma born and bred counterparts know, Billy Donovan is head coach.

Billy left Florida Luke's sophomore year. So he was very familiar with the Gator-killer himself, Luke Francis Kornet.

Billy & his wife sat down for lunch.

Steven Adams and his darling New Zealand lad did too.

Kyle Singler, Enes Kanter, and Andre Roberson went off to explore the pier.

The Thunder stayed for 3 days and 2 nights.

Never have I been more excited to wake up for my 10-hour work days.

I became really close with Steven, Coach Donovan, and fellow Sooner, Chris Condit, after their short stay.

The guys would roll in after their morning workouts and Steven would shout out in the middle of the lobby, "NICOOOOLLLLEEEE, I'M BAAAAAAAAAACK."

How fast I fell for that Grizzly Adams-looking man.


Coach Donovan was the last one to check out on Thursday.

Before leaving, he made eye contact with me and motioned me over to him.

"Now don't forget to tell your family I said hi, okay? Promise me you'll tell them."

15 minutes later he offered me a front office job for the Thunder.

20 minutes later he gave me the contact information of Matt Bonner's sister, Becky.

Becky works for "Basketball Without Borders."

She travels around the world with NBA athletes and teams and helps organize camps, fundraisers, and global networking events. She's currently with KD in India. Next is Russ in China. Imagine that.

So there I was in my little black dress and vans, laughing to myself at the fact that this crazy cocktail gig of mine landed me to this notion:

I might move back to Oklahoma.


I don't know what I'll do next, but I do know that my lease is up in one month, I have a couple of job offers up my sleeve, and I will blog allllllll about it.

P.s. I hope I didn't lure you into thinking this article was going to be about Luke. So glad you read, though!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Draft

Four years ago I was driving Luke and recently-christened NBA Champion Damian Jones around in my dad’s mondo Nissan Armada. Luke was fiddling through Maps (the app) (not the foldable kind) (millennials) trying to navigate his and Dame’s way to their first college class at Vanderbilt. Damian was as shy and polite as could be, and Luke, as always, was fearlessly taking charge.

Some things never change.

“Left, Nicole. No right. Heck, just drop us off here. We’ll be better off walking.”

Four years ago back when I was the favorite child, before NBA-potential Luke, I was fresh off my first season at OU. 


Buddy Hield and I were freshman that year. 

As I sat peering over at Luke’s gangly limbs as he barked commands at me from shotgun, I could barely fathom the idea that this was really happening.


“There's no way Luke can hang with these guys,” I quietly thought to myself, along with everyone else in the nation.

Four years later, the now 7’2” (mhmm) (I said it) (“I measured 7’1” without shoes and 7'2 and 3/8” in them Nicole") (so yes, 7’2” with shoes) little brother of mine is the all-time leader of this, that, and the other at Vanderbilt.

As it turns out, he could hang with those guys.


Yesterday was my older brother John’s birthday. You heard correctly. I have another brother, and his name is John, and he secretly puts Luke & me to shame.


He’s the pretty one in the family.

I’ve been hoarding Southwest vouchers throughout my travels this year, and racked up enough to fly Johnny boy out to LA for his big day. It just so happened that Luke would be in LA too, working out for the Lakers.

The timing could not have been any more perfect.


Over the weekend a few things dawned on me. 

1.) I love John William and Luke Francis with all of my heart.
2.) The NBA draft is next week. 
3.) I am in a pickle.

Let’s begin with #1.

My family is extremely close. Yes, closeness typically has a positive connotation; but with closeness also comes filter-free criticism, opinions, and the cold, hard truth.

That, I think, is my favorite part about the Kornet family, or should I say Kornet men. My mother merely married into it and had to quickly come to bear the brunt of this so-called “tough love,” or else she would have crumbled at 22, the age she wed my father.

“Nicole, run a comb through your hair.”
“John, shoot like your sister.”
“Luke, you do nothing in this house. Go pick up Copper’s poop. Now.”

Gotta love it. Whether it comes from John, Luke, my dad, or my mom, there’s no way to sugar-coat the love language of the Kornet’s.

Aside from what may come across as harsh and insensitive to most, many amazing, caring, sentimental, thoughtful, sacrificial qualities abundantly reside in the hearts of my family as well. I simply won’t bore you with those incidentals at this time.

I’ll just leave it at this—

My mom used to ask other parents if it was normal that all three of her children would rather stay at home and watch Rocky IV with their father instead of go out with their friends on a Saturday night.

The fact of the matter is, we love hanging out together. All five of our unique personalities really make for a special bond. 


Point #2:
The NBA draft is on June 22nd.

The whole family will be coming together under one roof—aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends included.


Come the 22nd Luke will have had worked out for 14 NBA teams.


That's a lot.

Especially for one whose name can't easily be found within the top 60 in most mock drafts.

Some have him at 67, some have him at 44, some have him at 60 on the dot.

For one, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Mock drafts are like chat rooms. Coaches and GM’s don’t create them; shoe companies do. 

I sound like a bitter ex-wife here, but I promise I have my sources.

To put it frankly, Luke has a very good chance of getting drafted. There's also a very good chance he doesn’t.

Insightful, I know.

I’m not allowed to disclose everything to you all, because my father said so. I have the power to share as much as I please; but if I share any more dirt, Luke might kill me.

Dirt, as in Luke has tri’s now and can all of a sudden move like a guard, and splashes long-range J’s like Jesus Shuttlesworth, and can slam jam tomahawk between-the-legs flush it, and hasn't stopped impressing coach after coach who regurgitates lines such as "You're climbing up the draft boards, son," thus affirming us common sense people who know his potential that he hasn't even scraped the surface and that his best days are ahead of him, and that story after story the boy shares is about how his under-the-radar self wows whoever is working him out, such as coaches witnessing him mark the best shooting performance of the draft class in one workout or clocking the second best all-time 3-minute shuttle run in another, but like I said, I will not share any of those things in fear of a severe talkin’ to from the Kornet men after doing so without permission.

Sorry not sorry

Point #3:
I’m in a pickle.

In one week I will be a free woman.

Free from 10-page papers, midterms, all-nighters, and two-hour seminars.

Free from constructing expense reports, answering phone calls, creating spreadsheets, restocking copy paper, and hightailing my high heels through the Hollywood Hills during lunch break.


As much as I have enjoyed my time at Wasserman, I will soon be relinquished of my intern duties.

As much as I have enjoyed my time at UCLA, I will no longer be a student there.

As much as I love California, I will no longer have a scholarship check to pay for my outrageous rent.

None of these things will stop me from fulfilling my lifelong dreams, of course. But as I’ve grown up, my dreams sorta have too.

California is my happy place.


But the Kornet family is, too.


My life is about to dramatically change in the upcoming months. It already has in many ways; but as soon as school ends, the floodgates of uncertainty are really about to drown me.

Do I try and pursue a TV career in California, and survive off of Top Ramen and thrift stores? Or do I head back home, start in a smaller market, and seek counsel from my mother?

Do I go into broadcasting, or do I take the wild and crazy plunge and pursue a professional basketball career overseas? (Despite my past denials of the sort.)

Do I accept the part-time position my coach has offered me at UCLA--the position of my dreams yet requires me to work two shifts a day in order to make ends meet--or do I find a more stable source of income in order to live more comfortably?

Do I move again like I always do, or do I stay put in my makeshift California home and continue to grow the relationships that have changed my life these past two years?

The bottom line is this: I have to have an income in order to pay my rent, put food on the table, and indulge in my favorite, frozen chocolate-covered bananas.

As you can tell, I’m in a pickle.


Someone once told me, “You don’t get to make choices in life. Life makes choices for you.”

I had a hard time believing this for a while. But as I’ve grown up, I've personally 
experienced this truth.

In one week I’ll have my answer. In one week the decision will be made for me. In one week life as I've known it will change.

And I couldn’t be more excited to see what God reveals, what doors God opens up, and where my little brother and I will be headed next because of it.

As always,
God bless, Anchor Down, Go Bruins, and Go Tigers

(John was a Tiger)