When I drove up to Rodney Mott's house I was quite impressed. His nearly 6000 square foot 5 bedroom, 6 bathroom home is Design-inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. It boasts clean lines and a modern minimalist look. The neighborhood is located in Summerlin in an all custom home gated community. [no surprise there] The brick inlay driveway graciously displaying three Mercedes. The landscape was pristine and structured.
As the door opened, I was welcomed in by Rodney's wife Deena. As I scanned my surroundings, I was equally impressed with the modern bright interior. She walked me into the kitchen where Rodney was sitting side-by-side at the kitchen counter, homeschooling his son Jayce. Each had their own tablet and they were discussing an English lesson. An in-person moment that he greatly missed after being in the infamous "NBA Bubble" for nearly three months.
I pulled up a chair and waited for them to finish the lesson and then we started to talk about the "NBA Bubble".
We sat and talked about so many subjects, Rodney is easy to talk to, he is very knowledgeable about many subjects and the conversation just flowed. I asked him to tell me about his Bubble experience, living in the craziest living arrangements that anyone could ever imagine. Where young twenty-something year old, multi-millionaire pro ball players (and Referees of course) were living basically in a one-room shack for three months!
THE NBA BUBBLE
He started telling me about when the NBA first decided to continue the season. (photos from game prior to Covid, not during the Bubble, [obviously]) "The Referees had the option to opt out but they would have to take a 12% pay cut. If you were 63 years old and older you had to get a medical approval to go. Out of 75 referees, only 45 were invited to The Bubble. The regular season continued. Twenty-one teams got to play 6 games".
He continued, "When we first got there, you had to quarantine for 7 days, but before we even arrived, you had to take Covid tests for 5 days, they sent the tests to our homes, If you tested negative, you got to go to The Bubble. It was crazy, when we got there, you could only leave your room to go to get [Covid] tested. Everyday we got tested, swabbed in the nose and the mouth. You couldn't have anyone in your room, no visitors, no guests, no other referees you couldn't leave your room except to get the test.
One of the players had to leave for an emergency (a funeral) and the NBA found out that he went to a Strip Club, so when he came back, he had to quarantine for another 10 days, another player had one of the people who administered the Covid tests in his room, he said they got to talking...for about 2 hours [I think it was more than just talking] and he got released".
"There was nothing to do. We worked, then went to the pool, ordered bottles of wine and liquor. We were able to order stuff off of Amazon. But for food, we couldn't order out, no uber eats, no take-out, no delivery, they restricted it. In the beginning, they sent food to our rooms. It came in a box! The food was less than appealing. They approved a couple of restaurants for delivery, but they charged $50 for a delivery fee. So, one night, I ordered dinner, the food was something like $38, but the bill came to $98 because of the tax and delivery fee". That's crazy! "We didn't order out often but when we did, we started to get more than one person to order from the same restaurant because the delivery fee was the same no matter how many orders you had. After about 2 weeks Lebron brought his personal chef and the Lakers rented out the restaurant in the hotel, but only the Lakers Players could go to it. No other players or referees or staff were allowed, but as time went on, more players were allowed to go, but still no referees."
"After a while I complained , I said "why don't we have a nice buffet like the players do"?, they said because the players have more money than you do, I said, "yeah but we're all human beings. We can't eat that food that you're giving us". So a couple days later, we got a buffet too, the food got a lot better. They always had snacks 24/7 that you could get but thats how you end up gaining weight."
"I brought 3 big suitcases. One of them was filled with my supplements. I brought my blender, I had 3 months worth of toiletries because we had to stay in the Bubble, we couldn't go out shopping".
This was all before any games actually started. "Then the games started. We only did 1 to 3 games per week at the most. That brought on more boredom because there is more down-time, no travel, no getting on planes, no traveling back home. Some of the Ref's went to the pool, played spades, dominoes, drank. The good thing about being in quarantine is no travel. But I had to pack for 3 months. I brought 3 big suitcases. One of them was filled with my supplements. I brought my blender, I had 3 months worth of toiletries because we had to stay in the Bubble, we couldn't go out shopping. It was hard to pack for that long of a trip. The hotel rooms were not that big either."
Back to the games. "I did 1-3 games per week for the first 3 weeks then after that the playoffs started, so then we were down to doing maybe 1-2 games per week. Then in the second round we did maybe 1 game per week. I remember I did one game, then had 8 days off. It was boring. Guys would download TV series, watch Netflix, one guy started an online language class, learning Italian. Most of us just slept. I slept for 14 hours per day, I'd get up at noon, then lay in bed until 4:00 but you had to get up to go get tested everyday, if you failed to get tested, you'd get released. If you had a game that day, you would have to be tested 30 minutes before the game. The testing room was open from about 7am to midnight."
I asked Rodney if all of the players from all of the teams, all stayed in the same hotel. He said, "well, there were 21 teams, the place where we stayed was like a resort, so the players stayed in a different area then everybody else. You could walk over there, it wasn't far, it was in the same complex, they came every day to eat in the practice facility right where we were. It's not like we didn't see them, everyone would take walks throughout the compound, it was boring. There was nothing to do. It was brutal. There was no normalcy. You don't get to see your family, you don't get to go home, you don't get to drive a car, nothing.
"I actually think that the teams played harder. There were no distractions, they got a lot more rest because there was no travel, plus the whole world was watching".
Now we're down to the Third-round. "There were only 18 referees and 4 teams left, so when your team loses a game, you're out, you leave the next day." I asked Rodney if he thought that any of the teams wanted to lose on purpose just to go home. He said, "No, I actually think that the teams played harder. There were no distractions, they got a lot more rest because there was no travel, plus the whole world was watching. We were the only sports games that were being televised. I think that the NBA did a phenomenal job. They set up 3 gyms, they had virtual people in the stands, they piped in crowd noises. It was funny because after the game, they turned off the switch and it was like dead quiet in there, it was weird. It cost the NBA $1.5 million per day for setting up the whole Bubble. Even Dr. Fauchi said that they did a phenomenal job. We set the bar high. No other sports leagues have been able to do what we did. They tested every employee, security personnel, every player, everybody. No positive Covid tests, and successfully completed the season. They estimate they lost $4 billion dollars by not having in-person games. It's estimated that 40% of the NBA revenue comes from the fans through ticket sales, concessions and souvenirs. The average team makes approximately $1.2 million on home games and there are 21 home games per season." I asked how the NBA paid for all of this, he said, "They agreed to a multi-million dollar television deal about 2 year ago, so they have the funds, and the games were still broadcast". The cost for our rooms was $700 per night, that included food and testing. I think that the NBA did a phenomenal job, with all of the people involved, and keeping 20-something-year-olds confined to their rooms, they all did an amazing job. I would never do it again, but I don't think we'll ever see another Bubble again either.
So now we went into our little Q+A interview session. We started out with 21 questions (in true Vegas fashion), but there's actually more... I should have said a "full-house" of questions. Sorry, I got carried away. Questions about his personal life, and then went into some fun, crazy and downright stupid ones.
STACY: How long have you lived in the Las Vegas area?
RODNEY: I moved to Las Vegas in 2000, so 20 Years
STACY: Are you married?
STACY: Do you have any Kids? What are their ages?
RODNEY: Yes, 13 year old son [super personality] and 26 year old step-daughter
STACY: Where did you grow up?
RODNEY: Buffalo, New York
STACY: What college or School did you attend?
RODNEY: San Diego State University with a degree in Electrical Engineering [see photos below]
STACY: What brought you to Las Vegas?
RODNEY: My parents moved here, I bought them a house and ended up moving here from California to be close to them.
STACY: Do you have any hobbies?
RODNEY: I do car restoration, home remodeling and photography
STACY: Tell me something that people may not know about you?
RODNEY: I'm vegan
STACY: What was the weirdest food you ever ate?
RODNEY: Some weird fish in China, I don't even know the name of it [obviously he wasn't ALWAYS Vegan, maybe this is what made him switch]
STACY: Do you have a Favorite Restaurant?
RODNEY: Tao [Grand Canal Shoppes-Venetian, and here I thought this was a nightclub]
STACY: Favorite Cocktail?
STACY: Favorite Sports Team?
RODNEY: Buffalo Bills
STACY: Favorite Car?
RODNEY: Bentley [he used to own one]
STACY: Can you tell me a little about you growing up?
RODNEY: My mom was from New Albany, Indiana and my Dad from West Virginia. My Dad worked two jobs and my Mom was a Stay-at-Home-Mom. They were married for 53 years!
STACY: Who is your mentor?
RODNEY: Hue Hollins [NBA Referee for 27 years, passed away in 2013]
STACY: If you could have one Superpower what would it be?
RODNEY: To be able to read people's minds [wow, that one scared me when he said it, I was thinking... do I look like I'm thinking something that you need to know? LOL]
STACY: Best Job Ever?
RODNEY: The one I'm in [dah, yeah... not bad, I saw this guys home!]
STACY: What was the last gift you gave someone?
RODNEY: Money [aaaah, my birthday is March 14th]
STACY: If you won a $10 million dollar Wheel of Fortune Jackpot, what would you do with the money?
RODNEY: Giveaway three quarters of it and the rest, help family members [aren't I part of the family?]
STACY: If you had to pick the next implosion of a casino, which one would it be? Why?
RODNEY: The Stratosphere [Strat] , because it's dirty and outdated, still
STACY: What do you wear to bed?
RODNEY: Underwear and a T-Shirt
STACY: What is one thing on your Bucket List?
RODNEY: To go to Africa
STACY: Toilet paper over or under?
RODNEY: Over... waterfall [we spent some time discussing this, why? I don't know but we were on the same page]
STACY: If I looked in your refrigerator, what would I find?
RODNEY: Healthy eating [I guess it goes hand in hand with being a vegan]
STACY: How many pairs of shoes do you own?
RODNEY: I don't know, I think I have about 45 pairs... no, 85, [we had his son go and count because they were discussing how many he actually has. At first, Rodney said about 45, his son said about 60, I told him to go count, he came back and let his Dad know that he has way too many shoes and used the opportunity to mention to his Dad that he needed to "catch-up" and get a few more pair for his own closet, his son had about one-quarter the amount as his Dad]
STACY: What Athletes influenced you growing up?
RODNEY: Walt Frazier and "Earl the Pearl" Monroe
STACY: Any pre-game rituals?
RODNEY: I do a 30-minute workout and 30 minutes of weightlifting [this man is definitely in shape]
STACY: Any advice for young athletes?
RODNEY: Whatever it is, it's just a game, enjoy and have fun [couldn't have said it better myself and it was refreshing to know how he feels, especially because he as a 13 year old son who is growing up in a sports atmosphere]
STACY: What was your weirdest fan-moment?
RODNEY: When I was walking off the court, I think it was in Utah. A fan came up and hugged me and said something like, "you did good" or "good job" [yeah, weird is right, a lot of coo coo people out there]
We hope that you enjoyed this short insight into this NBA Referees life. If you know of an athlete, entertainer, business owner, or interesting resident of Las Vegas, send us their information so we can do a write up about them too!
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Vegas Life Magazine