Kyle Wiltjer is somewhat of a movie buff.
Living just a few minutes away from a video store at his old house in Portland, Ore., Wiltjer used to run up the street and rent films at least once a week. Wiltjer would pop in the movies, sit back and marvel at art as its put into action.
At that stage in Wiltjer's life, Steven Speilberg, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino were at the top of their games mastering their craft. It seems only natural that a movie buff like Wiltjer would be into at least one of them.
Turns out he's into a different kind of film. Growing up, Wiltjer was much more interested in watching Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan recreate classics.
Born after the prime of Bird and Johnson's career, and with only a few memories of Jordan's historic run in the late 1990s, Wiltjer didn't let time affect his chance at seeing some of basketball's legends. Instead, he rented film after film, watching, learning and studying the game's greatest players.
When Wiltjer talks about them and some of the players he used to watch growing up, his eyes widen and his voice perks up. Just about every basketball player has a player they looked up to or emulated, but Wiltjer has quite the list.
In addition to Bird, Johnson and Jordan, there's Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Kevin Love and even Arvydas Sabonis (Wiltjer admits his admiration of Sabonis derives from his unabashed love for the Portland Trailblazers).
As much as you can call an 18-year-old a historian of the game, that's exactly what Wiltjer is. He's an astute follower. When Wiltjer discovered YouTube, he ditched the films for highlights and amateur mix tapes. It's not uncommon for Wiltjer to watch YouTube highlights seven nights a week.
Wiltjer has used the mental reels of film to his advantage in his rise to one of the top incoming freshmen in the country. While the average fan watches a basketball highlight in awe, Wiltjer studies it and applies it to his game like a sponge soaking up water.
"I try to pick up and practice moves I get from those tapes," Wiltjer said. "I loved how skilled Larry Bird was. He just didn't miss in his highlight tapes. My favorite clip is when he scores like 40 points all with his left hand. I thought it was pretty unbelievable that he could play with competition like that and do something like that."