Best of SI: How Sixers' Franklin and the Rest of NBA's Mascots Are Dealing With the Suspension

Justin Grasso

The Celtics’ ‘Lucky the Leprechaun’ was excited to see everyone late last week when he signed on to a Zoom call with more than a dozen other NBA mascots. “Hey, what’s up guys? What’s the plan? What are we talking about?” he asked.

The Mavericks’ ‘Champ’ appeared to be in his kitchen, while Toronto’s ‘The Raptor’ was sitting at the bottom of a stairwell, where the Wifi was presumably strongest. Only this particular video chat was vastly different than the seemingly endless amount of professional video chats that took place in the recent days and weeks around the world. No one else spoke up, not even with a single hello.

“Are you guys all on mute? Guys, I can’t hear anything, what’s going on?” Lucky repeated, shortly before hanging up in frustration.

Amid the on-going global COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA mascot industry is relatively low on any hypothetical list of those most impacted. But purely in the sports and entertainment space, the NBA mascot is now left with a complicated conundrum. In a time of social distancing, with no crowds to charm, no community events to attend, what do you do now?

“I can’t imagine what those guys are going through,” says Kevin Vanderkolk, who performed as the Bucks’ ‘Bango’ for 14 seasons before retiring in 2014.

NBA mascots are accustomed to enchanting and enthralling 18,000 fans on a given night. Their schedules are loaded, not just as a result of performing during games, but more so by all the other components that come with wearing the suit. The full-time job—and it is very much a full-time job—can also include 300 community appearances per year, potentially more.

Click here to read the rest of "When the Show Stops: How NBA Mascots Are Coping During the Coronavirus Crisis" at Sports Illustrated!