Full Transcript: Blazers “Smooth Criminal” Nicolas Batum On “Men In Blazers” Podcast

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


Nicolas Batum is a big soccer fan and he’s talked to The Columbian before about his affinity for the Paris soccer club Paris Saint-Germain and their star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Men In Blazers has been my favorite sports podcast since it started on ESPN’s Grantland Network on 2011 because Rog Bennett and Michael Davies have the perfect amount of dry humor, WWI poetry and Nae Nae references to keep me entertained. They’ve had other NBA players like Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and rapper Drake as guests.

I would also like to take this time to say I have been publicly campaigning for Nic to make an appearance on the pod since the middle of February after they interviewed Marc Gasol. If the MIB send me one of their Blazer Patches for GFOP’s (Great Friend Of The Pod’s), that should count as my finder’s fee.

You can listen to the interview in the video above and you can click on the icon with his face to go directly to the interview portion with Bennett and the transcript is below:

After a lengthy intro about Batum, the interview begins


Rog Bennett: Your team are having a remarkable season, the Trail Blazers. They are a little bit like the Belgium of the West Coast Conference, everybody’s Dark Horse. You’re having a remarkable year. Watching you you are Mr. Versatility, you do it all: blocks, defensive ability, three-point shooting, you can score from close range. What football player is the Nicolas Batum of European Soccer?


Nic Batum: Oh wow, that’s a great question.  I don’t know, if I could say y favorite player on the PSG team is (Ezequiel) Lavezzi. So I could say I am a Lavezzi guy maybe on offense.


RB: To me when I watch you, you’re like Steven Gerrard in high-tops.


NB: Oh from Liverpool, a little bit yeah.


RB: Do you actually play football Nicolas or do you just play EA Sports?


NB: No I just play with my friends. I don’t ever play with a team or a club I just play outside with my friends.


RB: Your real love of football lies with PSG. They are a remarkable story, we know them after the Qatari makeover in 2011 but can you describe PSG to us in the bad ol’ days before they took over? What were they like then?


NB: That was of course, we struggled a little bit before we got all those guys and I mean getting the money and the team. We got good players but we never won the championship so of course in two years the dream come true. Most of the city is for the team now. They have great players, we signed guys like Tiago Silva, Ibrahimovic. So we are one of the best teams in Europe and the World so it’s pretty great.


RB: Back in the old days it was like Paris didn’t care. They had two groups of fans: they were like far-right skinheads and black and arab fans who would sit in the other stands and they would just fight each other. But they’ve become almost like a luxury brand like the Lakers, Yankees, Barcelona and (Manchester) United. What is it that you like about them now NIcolas?


NB: I mean everything changed. Everybody united on the team so we know we can do something special. This team can do something special so that’s why the whole city regroup around this team because they put Paris on the map now.


RB: Yeah, they have such ambition because it’s very rare for a French team Nicolas?


NB: Yes, yes. We need like one team who can dominate for like four, five, six, seven in a row so now we have one in a high level in Paris.


RB: I don’t want to offend you because I don’t like to offend guest but Ligue 1 has kind of been a bit of a backwater, a stepping stone for players to Spain or England. WHat would a win against Chelsea for PSG do for French esteem.


NB: It would be huge for France. Chelsea because of the players they have, the coach they have, the history they have. That would be huge for Paris, for France and for the sports in France yeah.


RB: Your team is stocked with talent, Tiago Silva, Tiago Motta, Edinson Cavani, Blaise Matuidi, Zlatan. Who is the man you enjoy watching the most?


NB: I mean Zlatan. He’s the man over there. He’s the main guy. Everything goes through him, he’s a superstar. We have a great team. We have the best defense in the world with Tiago Silva, Maxwell, all those guys. I like the team, we have confidence, it’s going to be a battle against Chelsea but I think we are going to win.


RB: I’m going to get a prediction from you before the end. But you’ve met Zlatan, I’ve seen you on the field, in Paris with Zlatan. What’s he really like Nicolas?


NB: I mean I like his confidence. He knows who we are, he knows who he is. He know he’s the best, some people say he’s arrogant or…he’s one of the best. He’s a top-five in the World so that’s what I like about him.


RB: So if LaMarcus Aldridge arm-wrestled Zlatan who would you put your money on Nicolas?


NB: (laughs) I would put LaMarcus. He’s stronger and taller. LA is a tougher guy.


RB: You have a future in diplomacy Nicolas. Zlatan was asked by a reporter whether his playing style was Swedish or Yugoslavian? And he answered Zlatan-style. In France, it’s become a noun to Zlatan. To Zlatan means to crush.


NB: That’s what he did. That’s what they did when you do something amazing it’s “you Zlatan it.”


RB: If your name was to become a verb Nicolas what would Batum mean? To Batum something?


NB: People say I’m a smooth criminal, smooth guy so we can replace this move with my name if you want to.


RB: I’m going to start using that, “to Batum.” Don’t Batum me man.


NB: Alright.


RB: I know you’ve taken a number of your teammates from the NBA to watch Portland Timbers games. What’s that experience been like for you and for them?


NB: I mean, they don’t really know soccer in US. Since we have a team I try to bring them and it’s very cool, very exciting. We have a pretty good team in Portland so I try to enjoy it. I hope that maybe I can come to Brazil to watch the World Cup, you never know.


RB: A tweet from one of our listeners, “Can you ask Nicolas to compare the rabid atmosphere of a Timbers game to a Ligue 1 atmosphere?” What would you say?


NB: It’s different because soccer is everything in Europe. In France, or Spain, or Italy, England, everywhere. Everybody play different but it’s friendly in the US and I don’t think people really know the game like we know in Europe. We go up there like, they curious. They want to learn, it’s different.


RB:  Let me ask you about Europe. I have to ask you about the World Cup. France seem to have an alternating strategy in the World Cups. They take one World Cup, they take a vacation in one World Cup and then they come back for the next World Cup very, very hell-bent on winning it. They’ve got Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador in Brazil, what are you predicting?


NB: We have a good team and we struggled the last couple of years but the way we played the last couple of months, I’m very happy and very confident about it. That’s in Brazil.


RB: What are you thinking, what are you sensing? A little French run deep into the tournament.


NB: We can do it. We can classify. I don’t think people expect us to do something. So, in that case you have no pressure. We can play loose and create some surprise because we don’t know. Spain is the favorites with Germany and Brazil, Argentina, Portugal. So, we can do something behind everything and we never know. Create a surprise.


RB: Do you know a lot of those guys? Ribery? Benzema?


NB: I’ve met them a couple of times, yeah.


RB: Are those the guys you believe in?


NB: Yeah I believe in them. They play for the best teams in the World, they are some of the best players in the World so we can do something.


RB: Your father’s Cameroonian? Do you also feel a tie there?


NB: We have a tough group. A tough group with Brazil, Mexico and Croatia I think so it won’t be easy but like I say you never know what can happen?


RB: That’s exactly true. There are two games in the PSG-Chelsea tie. Can we get some predictions from you to wrap up Nicolas? PSG-Chelsea, talk us through how it’s going to go in your mind’s eye.


NB: Well the first game in Paris is going to be 2-0 from Paris. The second game in Chelsea will be 1-1.


RB: Nicolas you are an optimist. Let me tell you Insha’Allah: may your word be absolutely Golden. I hope it’s absolutely true. I want to wish  you and the rest of the Trail Blazers godspeed for the rest of the season. We’ll be watching. We’re very fond of your passion. Thanks for joining us.


NB: I appreciate it, thank you.


Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on ESPN.com's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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