Chase Budinger’s trips to New York City used to feature games at Madison Sqaure Garden. The former NBA player’s visit to the Big Apple this week will be a much different one as he’s now a professional volleyball player competing in the AVP New York City Open for the first time. Budinger played eight years in the NBA before knee injuries forced him to retire early. However, being a professional beach volleyball player was always a part of his master plan.
“It was always the plan to go back to beach volleyball,” said Budinger in a phone interview. “I grew up playing both volleyball and basketball and when I decided to go to Arizona, I put all my focus into basketball. I knew when I retired from basketball that I could always come back to beach volleyball.”
Budinger played for the Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves and Suns. He played with All-Star Kevin Love in Minnesota, almost won the Slam Dunk contest in 2006 and took a charge from LeBron James that he says felt for the next week. During his career, Budinger loved to play volleyball during the offseason as a way to work on his lower body strength and improve his athleticism. Four on four matches during the offseason in Hermosa Beach used to include the likes of current Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton and NBA champion Richard Jefferson, both graduates of Budinger’s alma mater the University of Arizona.
The California native has many great memories when it comes to New York City. Chase’s sister used to live in Tribeca and he would visit her every time one of his teams was in town to play the Knicks or the Nets. The 30-year-old loves the city’s diverse food options, enjoys walking around the area and will finally to get to play in the place he received pictures of.
“New York is an incredible place to play. My sister used to live Tribeca and she lived in a high rise that overlooked the volleyball stadium,” said Budinger. “She used to send me pictures of the tournament, so it will be cool to finally play in this event.”
Budinger will play with 2x Olympian Sean Rosenthal at Hudson River Park’s Pier 26/25 this weekend. After knee injuries ended his basketball career early, Budinger says his body feels great and that the sand is much more forgiving than the NBA hardwood. Most professional volleyball players don’t enter their peak until their late 30s and early 40s. After spending years perfecting his jump shot, Budinger knows there’s a lot he still needs to improve on in beach volleyball. Despite having to play a little catch up, he has no regrets.
“It’s been challenging because it’s a tough sport,” said Budinger. “There’s a lot of hard work you have to put in to be the best at this sport. I love the every day life of this sport. I spend most of my time on the beach and ride my bike to work every day. I tell kids all the time, don’t stick to one sport. Playing multiple sports can help them in the long run. Playing volleyball tremendously helped my athleticism and jumping ability in the long run.”
The AVP New York City Open runs from June 7- June 10. The event will feature Olympians Phil Dalhausser and April Ross.