Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. on how he became a Chelsea fan

Photo: David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers featured in last week’s Chelsea Mike’d Up podcast to discuss his passion for Chelsea, including how he got into being a Chelsea fan, his first experience at Stamford Bridge, his thoughts on this season and other football fans in the NBA.

On how he’s become a Chelsea fan

Larry: “For me it was the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. My favourite team was that Samuel Eto’o Cameroon team – I just loved the way they played and at that point I wasn’t that big into the club game. I just loved Samuel Eto’o and at that point Eto’o was on Chelsea, so I just followed Eto’o right to the Blues and then from there it was ‘who are all these geniuses?.’ The I got in college, still a fan of the Blues and that’s when some major triumphs happened for us and then once I got to the NBA I had the chance to meet Thibaut Coutois, Eden Hazard and build a relationship with these guys… so I’ve been a Blues since 2010.”

On his first experience at Stamford Bridge

Larry: “I had seen Chelsea that summer, they were in their US tour and I got to see them play Arsenal at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. It was very cool, but Hazard wasn’t there and all of the big players weren’t there. So I decided that summer that I had to go to London and, unfortunately I didn’t get to see them in Stamford Bridge, but I got a tour of the stadium with Thibaut [Courtois], who showed me around, took me pitch side, we swapped jerseys, so it was really cool. In the same trip I went to Newcastle to see them play Newcastle and it was unbelievable. I got to see Chelsea win there, Hazard scored a penalty, which I caught on my phone and watched it over and over and over. On the same trip, I caught two other games, but I don’t even remember what they were. I’ve been over four times now and I always try to see as many games as possible.”

On other NBA players that support Chelsea or other teams

Larry: “John Henson [Detroit Pistons] is a Chelsea fan, Kendrick Nunn [Miami Heat] got into it through FIFA… Alex Caruso [Los Angeles Lakers] is a Manchester City fan, Josh Richardson [Philadelphia 76ers] is an Arsenal fan, Luol Deng growing up in London is an Arsenal fan, Tristan Thompson [Cleveland Cavaliers] is a Manchester City fan, obviously LeBron owns some of Liverpool… so there are guys that are starting to stepping into the realm.”

On the 2019/20 Chelsea season

Larry: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season, because going into it I was like ‘new manager, lost our best players – the best player in the Premier League at that time – new striker, we are completely new, we are playing the babies,’ so I was ready to settle for top six if we can get some experience and then fight for it. But we started so hot and some players like Mason Mount started so unbelievably well that I think we unrealistically got our hopes up or me at least. At this point, I have an exorbitant amount of patience and confidence in these guys. I love Frank [Lampard], I like Mason [Mount] – I met him a few times and he’s a great guy – big fan of Tammy [Abraham] as well, Christian [Pulisic] it goes without saying although I wished we played him more. I think Christian is going to be great.”

On his reaction when Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard left

Larry: “It’s impossible to deny that Hazard deserves a statue one day, he’s unbelievable. Seeing him go was one of those things that, being involved in sports, I understand. Even with basketball, we have a cap, so all teams must spend the same, but it’s not like that in football. Leaving Chelsea to go to Madrid, I get it… it’s a bigger pond – it’s a little sad, but at the same time I respect his decision. Same with Thibaut, I’m pretty sure his family was in Madrid so that’s where he wanted to go, so I get that.”

On his favourite moment this season

Larry: “I went to the Liverpool game at Stamford Bridge this season. The experience of just getting to be there, even though we lost, was great. The atmosphere when Kante banged that improbable goal home was awesome, plus as a football fan Trent’s [Alexander-Arnold] free kick was unbelievable. From a football fan’s perspective that game was great.”

On rivalry with other London teams

Larry: “London has to be blue.”

On his passion for Football Manager

Larry: “I play Football Manager religiously. I won a Champions League with Bournemouth, so now I’m trying to take Watford there. I also play Fantasy Premier League… I have a Champions League spot… I started this last year with some buddies and had an absolute blast doing it, so I’ve expanded this year and invited Josh [Hart], Josh Richardson, John Henson, Luol Deng, Stu Holden [former football player].”

On waking up early to watch Chelsea

Larry: “Waking up early to watch games to me that’s fandom. I’m not just waking up to see the 3 o’clock game against Manchester City once a year, that’s not fandom. It is supporting your guys at 7 in the morning or 8:30 in the morning for every game.”

On Christan Pulisic

Larry: “I’m torn. Being American, he’s our baby and I want him to get all the experience in the world, but at the same time being a Chelsea fan, I’m a big Mason guy too.”