merican Matt Walsh has so many stories about his travels around the basketball world that it's hard to know where to start.
It's a journey which has led to his ownership of the Breakers, the Auckland NBL basketball club which has been putting itself through hoops of late.
Controversies over player behavior, and even Walsh's own behavior when he argued with the league commissioner, have created what might be called unwanted headlines although – let's be honest – there is no such thing as a bad headline when you are trying to reach an audience.
A two win, eight loss start to his second season in Auckland doesn't exactly help the image though, even if crowd numbers are still strong.
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So who is Matt Walsh, and what is he doing here? And is he really some crazed import who would shift his young family and put up millions of his own money in order to turn a family saloon of a basketball club into 10-car pile-up?
It's a question which answers itself, of course, and it's not just about the money.
It was a significant wrench for his family to come here. Wife Jessica was pregnant with their third child, and it also meant uprooting their six year old son who had started to bond with family in America after the Walsh's basketball travels around Europe.
The owner/chief executive is incredibly optimistic about the future, and adores his adopted homeland, but the present tense is taking some getting used to.
Walsh expresses a lot of frustration at claims of an unstable culture developing at the Breakers since he bought it early last year from grocer/publishers Paul and Liz Blackwell, whose homespun methods created endless goodwill and four NBL titles.
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"Jessica jumped at the chance of another adventure and it's been an easy transition – we've lived in much harder places to integrate," he says.
"But the most challenging thing for my wife and family is the negative stuff which comes out in the media. I tell her don't worry – for me it's not an issue, I've dealt with enough of it before. Not having friends and family here is tough on her.
"But I was definitely naïve. I knew the Blackwells were loved, but we came with the best intentions, to take the Breakers to the next level.
"I did not expect so much push back of a foreign owner, of an American coming in.
"We get it from the media for sure because it's an easy narrative when things don't go so well. It has taken me 18 to 20 months to get the culture right, but there is a disconnect between that and the results. It does frustrate me."
These are bumps in the road for Walsh, the 36-year-old from Philadelphia whose dream of playing in the NBA was only realised for a few minutes.
It all started so well when the ultra-competitive small forward stepped onto the court for the Miami Heat against the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2005/06 season.
With his first touch of the ball he ripped past an old Philadelphia friend named Hakim Warrick and scored with a little floater.
"I thought 'this isn't so hard'," recalls Walsh, as we chat in his office at Breakers HQ in Mairangi Bay.
They will forever be his only NBA points, and he made just one more extremely brief appearance.
Walsh's experiences around this time epitomise professional sport's wild ride, of dreams and despair.
He had declared early for the NBA, leaving a Florida University team which went on to win the national title.
The star junior felt assured of being picked up in the draft, and in a scene that only American sport can conjure up, reporters, friends and family gathered at the Walsh house in the community of Holland to celebrate and record a local kid making good.
Instead, his name wasn't called and Walsh escaped the press, devastated at becoming "a wallflower at his own dance" as The Athletic described the scene.
And after getting his chance, he was cut from the Miami Heat during that 2005/06 season, when a team including Shaq O'Neal won the NBA title. Walsh failed to qualify for a championship ring.
O'Neal, by some stretch, is his favourite NBA memory.
In a story Walsh often recounts, the incredibly famous and large basketballer ferried Walsh to and from practice for three weeks, when he heard the youngster had found himself without a car.
Riding with Shaq, Walsh would text friends to tell them he was riding with Shaq. What else can you do in such circumstances?
There was more.
While Shaq was recovering from injury, he would hoist Walsh to sit alongside him courtside, to prevent sweaty active players get too near. Shaq O'Neal literally used Matt Walsh as a human shield, and for this wonderful moment in time, Walsh got to hear Shaq "goof off" and discuss theories about screen plays.
Outside, Shaq even shook the hand of Mike Walsh, Matt's dad, and said: "You've raised a good boy here."
O'Neal, most likely, would struggle to remember any of this, but Matt Walsh will never forget it.
"Those are the things I remember most about the NBA, more than anything else," he says.
Not all of his famous team mates were as affable as the delightful Shaq.
"Other guys would look at the 15th guy on the end of the bench and treat him like the 15th guy on the end of the bench," he says.
One team mate, a Hall of Famer, would ignore the unwritten rule of allowing sports bets to even out over time, and demand his money on the bus.
"He'd yell 'where's my money?…just things to belittle you," says Walsh. "It was a bit of a whirlwind…he was someone I'd been watching my whole life. So it shocks you. They say never meet your heroes. Since then, I've learnt it's just normal."
NBA rejection led him to Europe, and initially two years of "torment" as he reflected on a dream gone bad.
He found a way to turn his attitude around, and the byways have now become highways of experience in his mind.
Initially escaping to Greece, he played for Olympic Larissa where – on driving down a dirt track – he found his apartment to be nice, but overlooking a chicken farm.
There may be nothing wrong with a chicken farm per se, but when you are a 23-year-old NBA reject it isn't a fun view.
His team mates included the local fire chief, and players would smoke in the locker room after practice.
Which was heaven, compared to another assignment.
In 2012, while playing in Spain, he was offered "incredible" money to play for BC Azovmash and – with his wife and son heading back to the United States – he headed to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a place subsequently hit by the conflict with Russia.
"You can't even describe it…the pollution was so bad the sky was red," he says.
"There were wild dogs everywhere, fights outside the apartment, potholes so bad they would eat up your car. I was walking down the hall in the hospital and a dog jogged past me.
"For a urine test I was handed a baby food jar – they said seal the top when you are done. That meant putting the cap on the baby food jar. The bathroom was disgusting.
"When I had blood taken, the lady put the thing in my arm, opened the valve and poured my blood into one of those big medical beakers.
"My blood result came back as abnormal. I said 'No shit?'."
The team president would call him in on pay day, and offer bundles of dollars and hryvnia out of a safe. Walsh preferred to get most of his money wired, fearing he was about to be robbed in a setup.
"It was a mafia type thing – you can't make it up," he says.
"And the stuff you would see. In the supermarket freezer there would just be frozen rabbits, with the fur still on. No covering, just tossed in."
Fair to say that in comparison, a bit of bad press in Auckland must seem like a doddle.
But it isn't.
Matt Walsh's parents made their money in real estate, although his father has an interesting sideline.
Mike Walsh writes movie scripts, usually based on real life characters. He also produced his latest film Sno Babies, a look at the opioid crisis in American suburbs.
Matt Walsh also made his money in real estate, investing his basketball earnings well.
His foray into sports sponsorship came via his agent-turned-mentor Jason Levien, who also was the celebrant at Matt and Jessica's wedding. Levien is an owner of football clubs Swansea City and DC United, and Walsh joined in.
But Walsh is the main man in Auckland, the voice of the Breakers when times are tough.
With questions being raised about the quality of the new ownership, Walsh made the remarkable claim in a radio interview this month that the Blackwells were on the verge of shutting the Breakers down because it was losing so much money.
The Blackwells have retained five per cent of the Breakers, and Paul Blackwell did not want to make any comment about the club when contacted by the NZ Herald . But he confirmed that Walsh's claim was correct.
When interviewed for this profile, Walsh revealed the Blackwells were losing "well north of $500,000 a season".
With the Blackwells wanting out, an intermediary alerted Walsh to the purchase possibility in 2017.
He found four main partners including former NBA player Shawn Marion and a little cluster of one percenters, family and friends who could enjoy being a sports franchise owner in name although not influence.
It is a significant investment. The annual budget under the Blackwells is believed to have been around $3m. Walsh won't talk numbers, but the new owners are rumoured to have put in about nine million already, in under two years. A significant portion comes from Walsh himself.
As for the plan: You need a good team of course, and he's brought in Israeli Dan Shamir as coach.
There's a new women's academy, and more community coaches. The club has also put new emphasis on merchandise, taking more control and lowering prices while increasing sales. Increased visibility is as important as profitability. They also negotiated a league-record deal with Sky TV as the club's major sponsor.
And marketing zoomed into another orbit, compared to the Blackwell era, when a billboard suggested the club would provide a new home for the legendary American player LeBron James.
There has even been a personal image tweak for Walsh, the baseball hat look taking more of a back seat to suits as the young owner feels his way in this new world.
Not everything has gone smoothly and a run of incidents included import Glen Rice Jr. facing an assault charge, after being rushed in to bolster an injury-hit squad even though he had a troubled history.
And therein lays a strength and weakness for all of the NBL teams. A league which has grown in strength means fortunes rise and fall on some luck as well as good management when signing imports.
hich brings us to R.J. Hampton.
The 18-year-old Texan - a US junior star and top NBA draft prospect - has hogged the headlines without necessarily living up to his billing with the Breakers this season.
Or to put it another way, when fellow strugglers the Illawarra Hawks step out at Spark Arena on Saturday, the pressure will be on Hampton to start leading a Breakers recovery.
The Hawks have their own teenage American sensation in LaMelo Ball, whose form is so good that he's attracted a posse of NBA scouts downunder.
In contrast, there are those quietly questioning Hampton's commitment to the Breakers and his overall dedication, along with suggestions his actual on court contribution doesn't match the headlines.
Everything possible was done to smooth the young Hampton's landing in Auckland – his parents and younger brother are living here with him.
Commenting on the import question in general - I didn't specifically ask him about Hampton – Walsh says this will always carry a risk.
"I think my background of playing at every level, and in America and Europe, gives me a pretty good pulse about what types of personalities fit in," he says.
"With New Zealanders and Australians the information is readily available. We run a lot by (Kiwi players) Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster.
"With the imports we do as much due diligence as we can. But we won't always get it right, even with guys who haven't had problems in the past.
"Our business is driven by imports – just look around the league. You have very good imports but there will just be some guys who don't fit in."
ne of the noticeable things about Walsh, the more you talk with him, is how quickly he has immersed himself in the New Zealand sports scene.
Walsh is willing to offer a concise opinion on subjects like the stadium situation in Auckland. He says major private investment is essential because the drain on ratepayers would be too much, and Auckland needs a small venue, not a new 60,000 seater colossus.
He is also in awe of the All Blacks, saying Breakers coach Shamir was staggered by what he saw at a practice session where every player was totally committed to their tasks. Walsh says this is not the case in even the best of basketball teams.
But he also says that rugby's game day entertainment experience is lacking, and it is not a sport capable of providing the dazzling clips which will increasingly dominate sports-watching via phone apps.
And Walsh – who played gridiron as a kid - says contact sports face almost insurmountable problems related to brain injuries.
"I can tell you with my (eight-year-old) son, I want him so much to be part of the culture here," says Walsh.
"He plays touch rugby, but he'll never play contact rugby. He's a big boy, they're going to want him, but I'll do everything in my power not to allow that to happen.
"I watch the hits those guys take and I don't want my son to take them."
And here's the kicker. When I tell Walsh that football contacts told me he is interested in running an A-league team, he doesn't back off.
Yes, he has spoken to the A-league hierarchy. He firmly believes an Auckland team needs to be part of an expanded A-league.
"It's something I'm very open to be part of," he says.
About the only main sport we don't talk about is cricket. Although on second thoughts, it did get one mention.
Walsh's original intention was to install a chief executive in Auckland, and run the Breakers from America.
But he fell in love with the country, a sentiment he fears is not always reciprocated. And this is a particular surprise, because he thought the patriotic factor would carry more weight for the lone New Zealand team in an Aussie competition.
Walsh is about to head out the door, to host a Thanksgiving party for the club at his Campbells Bay home. He leaves with a few parting gifts.
"My family and I are not going anywhere - we love this, and we are doing this properly," he says.
"That's one of the frustrating things, that we've got these claims of a bad culture, and we are not doing things correctly.
"Just because I'm an American and looking at things differently…we had to do things differently, we had to attract the casual fan.
"There needs to be some drama, we need to be in the news, for positive things, but when the stuff doesn't go well we need to front it.
"We're in this for the long haul and we are going to be successful. I want the Breakers to be regarded as the best-run club in the world outside of the NBA.
"This sport is growing, this league is growing. I believe the more we depend on technology, the better it is for basketball.
"I've put millions of dollars into it, and I believe these franchises are going to be worth many times over what I paid for the Breakers."