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Victor Oladipo on hot sauce, film study, and ‘staying woke’ about the Pacers

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On Cinco De Mayo, an occasion which usually brings people together, Oladipo will be broadcasting live to support a cause which has been impacted by our need to stay apart. In an exclusive interview with SB Nation, here’s what the two-time All-Star had to say about his involvement in the event and much more.

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Like the rest of the NBA, Victor Oladipo is out of commission on the court as the coronavirus pandemic spreads through the US, but he’s found another medium to share his talents and connect with fans in the interim: the kitchen.

On Tuesday, May 5 at 7 PM EST on Instagram, Oladipo will be streaming live from his own handle and playing co-host to a virtual Taco-thon, in partnership with Cholula Hot Sauce, as a star-studded lineup of celebrity chefs celebrate Cinco de Mayo by sharing their favorite taco recipes — all in the spirit of giving back.

With many family-owned mom-and-pop restaurants taking a hard hit from the public health crisis, Cholula will pledge $1 for every viewer that joins, up to $100,000 (with a minimum contribution of $50K), to the Independent Restaurant Coalition during the online telethon.

Oladipo spoke with SB Nation on Friday on behalf of Cholula about old teammate Lance Stephenson, investing himself in what he’s invested in, and “staying woke when it comes to the Pacers,” as well as all things hot sauce, from laying out his goals for the future to ranking the relative spice levels of his teammates.

First of all, can you tell us why you wanted to get involved with Cholula’s Taco-thon?

I’m invested in it first and foremost, and anything I’m invested in, that means I care about it and it means something to me. I like hot sauce and I also like tacos and I eat hot sauce with pretty much everything. What better way to do it then? To have my own hot sauce. To partner with the hot sauce I use, that people that I care about use, so that’s what it’s all about. Being able to influence the world but at the same time it brings meaning to you and the people in your life.

Cholula says on its website that its brand is most recognized by its iconic wooden cap and artistic Mexican label, what would you say is the most recognizable aspect of your game or what do you want the most recognizable aspect of your game to be remembered as?

I want to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Granted, I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’ve still got a lot of things I need to accomplish in order to do that, but that’s my goal. I’m going to do whatever I can everyday when I wake up, every time when I step on the floor, to make sure I achieve those goals.

In the spirit of hot sauce, from mildest to spiciest, how would you rank the on-court demeanors of Indiana’s starting five, yourself included?

So who’s the the mildest and who’s the spiciest of all five of us? I think the mildest would be T.J. Warren because he doesn’t really say much. Then, Malcolm Brogdon because he says a little bit more than T.J. Then I would have to go...it would be a toss-up between... I would say Myles Turner next because he is right in the middle. And then for the spiciest, I would say, consistently, probably me. But, Domas is really close because he sometimes can get really, really energetic out there, and you know what I mean.

So I would say the spiciest is me and Domas, then Myles, and then Brogdon, and then T.J. Warren is the mildest. Silent killer is what we call him.

You recently went on a live video chat on Instagram with Los Angeles Lakers guard Quinn Cook and stated your intention to take old teammate Lance Stephenson up on his offer to play 1-on-1. Did the two of you ever play 1-on-1 against each other when he was with the Pacers?

We never really got a chance to play one-on-one, but we definitely did guard each other a lot at practice and stuff. Lance pushed me to be better. Obviously, the whole Instagram stuff and all that stuff was fun and games. But for the most part, Lance was a great teammate. And Lance was an amazing person, first and foremost. A lot of people have misconceptions of him because, you know, of the things he does, but he is a great human being. And, he used to push me so he was a great teammate, and I really appreciate everything he did for me.

But, no, we haven’t played...yet.

If the playoffs had occurred as scheduled and the match-ups stayed the same, you would be about ready to play Game 5 against the Miami Heat. Miami is known for playing a ton of zone, yet they never went to it in two games against the Pacers this season. Why do you think that is, and what do you see as the biggest key from a match-up standpoint in that series?

I’m not sure why they didn’t go zone versus us. I’m not really sure. Every time we played them, I didn’t play, so it’s hard for me to gauge. So, no. It would have been fun, definitely, if the playoffs were going on right now and we were playing them. It would have been a good match-up. And I think it would have been very competitive and very fun to watch.

You spent a year rehabbing and recovering and that probably caused you to be used to spending a lot of time at home. Are there any specific players that you’ve been watching film of during this downtime or while you were sidelined?

I’ve been watching ‘The Last Dance’ like everybody else on Sunday. It’s been powerful to watch. MJ, Pippen, and Rodman and all those guys and see their greatness and how they went about things. Their approach to every game and every day.

Given opportunity, I still have all my games on my iPad that I’ve ever played — all the games I played last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. So, I can go back and look at my own film, so I’m fortunate to be able to do that. At the same time, they play a lot of old games on TV nowadays on NBA TV, ESPN. They play a lot of old games and you can sit down and watch some games, that unfortunately you were playing in, and didn’t get a chance to watch or you just saw the highlights from. Now I get an opportunity to watch the whole thing, and you can watch them and pick something up from different people. Try to learn something and apply it to your game.

Cholula prides itself on making food exciting with a celebration of authentic flavors that elevate without dominating. Would you say that is how you approach playing for the Pacers? And, if so, what does a possession look like when you are functioning at your most Cholula?

I would say I play at my most Cholula...probably at the end of games. Being in a situation at the end of games, trying to be a leader, trying to be creative, trying to keep it simple at the same time, but when the time comes to figure out who wins and loses, and the game is on the line. I feel like that’s when I’m at my best. That’s kind of where the authentic, exciting flavor comes into play.

Alright, last question. With this being all about hot sauce, we can’t let you out of here without asking you to provide us with a Pacers-related hot take. What’s the hottest take you have about your own team?

It’s hard to say. We’re a small market, so they sleep on us consistently. But I feel like every year since I been (here) we’ve been competitive. We’ve been in the top five in the East every year, but yet we get shown no love, which is cool. At the end of the day, I’m not trippin’ up. I’ll let the game do the talking, but at the end of the day the hottest take is that they need to realize that they need to stay woke when it comes to the Pacers.