The tennis star, 25, tells PEOPLE he’s a massive fan of the NBA, and his experience playing in the league’s All-Star Celebrity Game last month was nothing short of “life-changing.”
While discussing his partnership with Stella Artois during the Miami Open, Tiafoe says he’s “always loved hoops,” but over the last few years, he’s become “really locked in” to the league.
“Since these last three or four years, I don’t miss a Wizards game when I’m home,” the Hyattsville, Maryland native says. His fandom has allowed him to get close to the team’s star, too — Bradley Beal attended his first tennis match when Tiafoe competed in the US Open in September.
Being selected to play in the league’s Celebrity All-Star Game in Salt Lake City last month was a longtime dream for Tiafoe, he tells PEOPLE, and he had been asking his management team to make it happen for a while.
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“That was one of my things, I was like ‘Look, you guys got all the connections. If I break through and do something crazy, I want to be in the All-Star [Game],” he says. “When they were able to get that done, I was like a kid in the candy shop, man.”
And although Tiafoe is a world-class athlete himself, he still sees his favorite basketball players as stars. “It’s weird, because you put them on such a high pedestal, right?”
Tiafoe, who was coached in the All-Star Game was none other than NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, sits on a high pedestal himself in the sports world, but it’s still foreign to him that the athletes he looks up to feel the same way.
“They’re looking at you the same way. It’s not you meeting them like ‘Oh, I’m such a fan,’ ” he says. “I still put them on a higher pedestal than I do myself.”
Tiafoe says he “couldn’t have been happier” during the three-day weekend in Salt Lake City. It was “one of the best weekends” he’s ever had, he says, – and he’s got the selfies to prove it.
“I’ve never asked for so many pictures in my life,” he tells PEOPLE with a laugh. “I got a lot of numbers too, it was a life-changing weekend.”
On Monday, Tiafoe lost his second-round match at the Miami Open to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, but the athlete says he just enjoys competing and tries not to worry about the results.
“I just love the game of tennis. I love playing and seeing the crowd get behind me and put a smile on people’s faces when I’m out there competing,” he says.
Tiafoe adds, “I just love what tennis has been able to bring me, so at the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and do me and you got to with the results. Good, bad, I’m still Frances Tiafoe at the end of the day.”
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