In August of 2018, Tim “oLARRY” Anselimo survived a mass shooting at a Madden tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. He was shot four times total in the chest, hip and hand. He nearly lost his thumb, and his career as a professional gamer was all but finished. Yet today, he stands as an ESPY winner and one of the most prominent figures in the NBA 2K League.
We at Stropse had the opportunity to sit down with oLARRY and discuss his painful rise back to the top, and we’re a lot better off for it.
Although being the victim of a mass shooting has undoubtedly shaped his relationships and life, oLARRY doesn’t let it define him. Instead, he’s accepted his experience for what it is and opted to build his character around it.
Growing Up with Sports and Gaming
“A basketball was put in my hands at an early age,” oLARRY told Stropse. “I have baby pictures with Patrick Ewing jerseys and basketballs. Just growing up in New York, basketball was a big influence.”
Just like any other kid growing up in the 90’s, oLARRY was surrounded with sports and video games. NBA 2K, Madden, Call of Duty; these titles were everyday affairs during his youth. He grew up admiring Knicks players like John Starks, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell and Chris Childs.
Even his screen name, “oLARRY,” comes from NBA legend Larry Bird. oLARRY and his friends used to call each other the “Dream Team,” the nickname given to the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team.
“We were kind of dominating these five-v-five lobbies, and my friend had said, ‘We’re like the Dream Team.’ And my other friend goes, ‘Well, if we’re the Dream Team. I’m Mike.’ And somebody else had said that they were Magic. And I was just like, ‘Okay, well, I guess I’m Larry then.’”
Even after oLARRY’s family left their Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick and moved to Florida, video games and sports stuck with him. But, eventually he grew up, becoming a used car salesman in Tampa. The thought of gaming as a career never even entered his mind.
That is, until 2016, when oLARRY competed in a $250,000 NBA 2K tournament. “I made it to the final four and a guy on my team had lagged out. So we ended up losing because they don’t reset the game for anything like that. So we were playing 4v5 and we lost. I told myself that I just made it to the final four that I possibly could have won, and this is for $250,000.”
Just as he began to realize his potential as a professional gamer, the NBA 2K League was announced. “And then boom, like, the next year after that tournament,, they announced the 2K League coming together. So I was just like, alright, well, what’s the worst that can happen? I don’t make it? I gotta at least try.”
Recovering, Helping Others and Family
Fast forward about a year, and oLARRY is competing in the 2K League as a member of Bucks Gaming, as well as dabbling in some Madden Tournaments as well.
In August of 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Chicago Pizza in Jacksonville during a Madden event in which oLARRY was participating. Two Madden pros, Robertson and Elijah Clayton, died that day, and nine others, including oLARRY, were left injured with bullet wounds.
“I went through some tough times, some really, really tough times, and life tests you in different ways,” oLARRY said of his experience.
It was an incredibly arduous and painful road to recovery, and nothing can erase the trauma he’s suffered. But oLARRY’s experiences have forever shaped his character and who he is as a person.
“I know what it’s like sometimes to be down. Surviving that day, and being given a second chance at life, it’s an opportunity to help people that are struggling, that are going through something or just need a little bit of encouragement or positivity in their life. Just seeing someone succeed after you help them is a good feeling to me.”
Whether it’s his friends, family, teammates, or whomever, oLARRY has found solace in helping others. Speaking of in-game leadership, oLARRY said, “Since I play center, I like to be kind of the second point guard. If I see things that the guard may not see, I try to be vocal. If I could create an easier opportunity for us to score because I see something, I’m gonna say it. It’s just being very vocal in-game.”
Off the virtual court, oLARRY is known to watch film, not only for himself, but also for his teammates, so he can help teach them as well.
“If we have a big matchup coming up, where we’re going to be playing the MVP point guard, we need to prepare for him. So I’ll individually watch if he likes to go left, if he likes to go right, if he likes to shoot more, or drive to the basket more.”
Along with helping others, oLARRY has also taken to heart the importance of family, which has taken on an entirely new meaning for him.
“Anything you do in life, I feel like you need a support system, or just people that believe in you. So that way, you can also believe in yourself.
“Life is short, I went through some stuff that was really tough. And you should be embracing the people that care about you more. I always tell people, you’re not too cool to just send your mom a text or a call. Don’t ever be too cool for your family, or the ones who were there when you didn’t have anything.”
oLARRY’s relationships in life clearly mean the world to him not only within his family, but outside of it as well. After being shot and just barely making it out of Chicago Pizza alive, oLARRY hopped a waist-high fence, wounds still fresh, and rushed into a nearby Hooters. Jordan Williams, a chef there, cared for oLARRY in the moments before the paramedics arrived.
Williams wrapped oLARRY’s hands in towels, bear-hugged him to cover the wounds and provided him with emotional assurance. “Jordan didn’t have to do what he did for me that day,” oLARRY said. “And honestly, if he didn’t help me, there’s a possibility that I wouldn’t make it.”
In those minutes before the paramedics arrived, the two formed a familial brotherhood that lasts to this day. “If he ever calls me and says he needs anything or he wants to hang out or he’s in town or anything, I always make it a priority to see him or spend time with him… I’m grateful that he was there that day, and I’m grateful that we can still call each other family.”
The Future Meets the Past
Just months after nearly losing his thumb, oLARRY was back playing 2K, albeit with a new grip on his controller. However, the NBA 2K League was expanding, and each team was only able to protect three players for the expansion draft.
The Bucks informed oLARRY that due to the uncertainty of his recovery, he would not be among the protected players, which meant that his career in the 2K League was in jeopardy. But he never gave up, and despite the doctor telling him to lay off the controller, oLARRY began practicing as soon as he got home from the hospital.
Anxious about his future, oLARRY received a call from Cavs Legion manager Anthony Muraco on the day of the expansion draft. Muraco asked him how he felt about playing under the Cleveland banner. Although the team did not have a draft pick that day, the Cavs Legion traded for the third overall pick with oLARRY in mind, who’s been playing there ever since.
oLARRY has been competing as the center for the Cavs Legion since September of 2018. His epic comeback to the league won him the 2019 ESPY Award for Best Esports Moment, making him the first ever esports player to win an ESPY.
“That whole experience is crazy. Talking to my mom about it, she didn’t understand it. She didn’t really grasp what an ESPY is. I had to explain that this is the Golden Globe of sports. This is like the Oscars, LeBron James has an ESPY. And she was just like, ‘Oh my God, so this is big?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah.’”
Watching all his favorite childhood athletes win ESPY Awards and then receiving one himself, the one word that oLARRY keeps coming back to is “crazy.”
“I’ve never been to LA and then my first time is to go to the ESPYS. They actually passed me the award on the red carpet which was crazy. I remember going through the metal detectors and seeing Trae Young and Dwight Howard and it was just a crazy time. Sitting so close to the USA women’s soccer team right after they won was a crazy experience for sure.”
Growing up, OLarry idolized the great athletes and players he saw on TV. He played as the virtual versions of them in video games and even named himself after one. Today, oLARRY stands alongside greats such as Patrick Mahomes, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Drew Brees, Christian Yelich and Alexander Ovechkin as 2019 ESPY winners.
oLARRY was the first esports player to ever win the award, and he hopes that his example can pave the way for those in the future. “No one really knew who I was. But hopefully esports continues to grow, and one day someone can accept that award on the stage.”
There aren’t many who’ve experienced life the way oLARRY has. The universe gave him a terrible roll of the dice, yet taught him to see things in ways so few do. oLarry helps others, values family, and works hard, refusing to let his trauma define who he is. Instead, he’s taken his trauma and used it as material to build himself into a genuine role model, a figure he would’ve been proud of to look up to as a kid.