Gotham Chopra describes himself as a lifelong Celtics fan but his love of the game extends beyond Boston basketball. Gotham grew up in a spiritual household, with his father Deepak Chopra, and says sports as an important part of his life. He recalls going to Celtics games with family friend, Alan Rosenfeld, and watching the greats like Larry Bird
“I’m a first generation American and, for me, sports were like a language. It’s how I assimilated and became American,” Gotham said. “The Celtics were always the thing I was most passionate about, and therefore, it just hated the Lakers.”
Gotham is a co-founder of the multimedia platform, Religion of Sports, along with Tom Brady and Michael Strahan. He is also a documentary filmmaker, comic book publisher, sports fan, and father. He’s worked closely with iconic athletes including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Tom Brady.
“It’s been the convergence of the world I grew up around with my father. Sports is ultimately about human potential. As much of a fan I am like, working with Kobe or Tom Brady, it’s their quest to be the best version of themselves that really resonated with me,” Gotham said.
As a fan and collaborator, Gotham has observed the state of “flow” many athletes achieve during a game and compares it to the meditative state that many religious practitioners also seek.
“Sports is a spiritual expression, their game, their performance. The other expressions we hear ‘being in the zone’, ‘flow,’ ‘state,’ ‘peak performance,’ these are spiritual experiences. When you study spiritual traditions, there are gurus and teachers and euphoric states and meditation and prayer. The same way they describe it, the absence of time, becoming one with myself, that’s the same thing that athletes do when they reach flow state. I’ve always looked at it that way,” Gotham said.
Despite his loyalty to the Celtics, Gotham worked closely with Lakers legends Kobe Bryant on “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” a documentary exploring Kobe’s basketball career. He describes working with Kobe as “a dream” and recalls his attention to detail and quest to better himself.
“Kobe was fascinated with greatness,” Gotham said. “I think anybody who was both a fan and admirer of his would know he thrived off of contentiousness…I say this with all due respect, you’re either Smush Parker, and if Kobe sees he can run you over, he’s going to, or you’re Shack, and you have a fist fight with him every day. It was both exhilarating but exhausting.”
Andy shares his experience of working with Kobe on “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” book and his thoughts on the Mamba Mentality.
“We started doing the book together and he would ask for photos…he remembered everything. We found probably 90 percent of what he wanted, but then he would break them down like you’re describing. I see a nice picture of Jordan, young Kobe, but he doesn’t. That’s not what he’s looking at, he was looking at everything going on in that picture. It was enlightening for me.”
Both Gotham and Andy work closely with athletes by building lasting relationships and using trust to tell interesting stories.
“Everything I have done successfully is a function of a relationship. I met Kobe in 2011. It wasn’t until 2013-14, that we actually started working together. I don’t look at the stuff I do as transactional. I remain close to people. I really value that. Hopefully that sense of intimacy comes across in the projects,” Gotham said. “People used to say to me, if MJ could trust you, then I could trust you. And now people say to me, ‘if Kobe can trust you, we can trust you.’”
Gotham and Andy also discuss the importance of athlete activism and how sports icons can use their platforms to raise important issues like social justice, racial equality, mental health, and women’s rights. Gotham, LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter worked on a documentary series “Shut Up and Dribble” which explored how athletes can be changemakers.
“It was a different climate a couple years ago with a different president, and everything was highly politicized. I was getting to know LeBron a little bit, and just how outspoken he is. I don’t like to talk about sneakers, we can talk about fashion we can really, we should be talking about politics. LeBron has such an incredible student of the game, he was telling me, ‘everything I’m doing is because of Oscar and Bill and Craig Hodges and Mahmoud all that.’ As much as I love sports, I’m also a huge fan of politics. I’m pretty opinionated. It was the convergence.”
“I love storytelling,” Gotham said. “The humanity of it, like the grind of it, makes it more impressive to me. I love what I do. And, and probably like you, I mean, that’s why I’m still doing it.”
As the world starts to open up again, Gotham and Andy look forward to once again seeing fans in the stands, hearing trash talk between players, and seeing people enjoy a sense of community.
“If you’re a Red Sox fan, or a Lakers fan, you go to that game, and there’s people from every walk of life, every socioeconomic class, every lifestyle, every ethnicity, people who pretty much would not get along, in any other circumstance. But in that, two-and-a-half hour NBA game, three-hour football game, they’re there together. They’re one. It’s a shared language. It’s a shared set of values. That’s a great thing about sports. I think that’s what global competitions do is bring people who don’t literally don’t speak the same language together. The NBA coming back, it’s been a huge like, there’s hope, there’s light at the end of this tunnel.”
Hear Gotham and Andy discuss the importance of giving athletes a platform, fatherhood, Gotham’s stories about working with Tom Brady and more memories of Kobe. Catch the Religion of Sports Crushed podcast launching this week.