Behind the Streams: 16 Questions with Jacob Eisenberg from NBA Top Shot
It was Monday morning around 11 AM in Las Vegas when Jacob Eisenberg, community lead at NBA Top Shot, showed up in the lobby of the Park MGM hotel.
Fresh off the heels of his brother’s wedding, Jacob enthusiastically greeted all of the Summer League Experience winners and their guests, myself, and the rest of the Top Shot team before we all drove off to the Thomas & Mack Center for the 11 AM Knicks v. Pacers game.
Between that first interaction and the time we sat down for dinner around 8 PM, we’d seen a full slate of Summer League basketball and hung out on and off for most of the day. In between, he shook hands, kissed babies (figuratively, of course), and worked the Top Shot Kiosk like it was his job. The man was in sales mode all day. He seems skinnier and taller in person, but just as comfortable as you’d expect talking about Top Shot and basketball with anyone and everyone.
Despite my best efforts to learn more about Run It Back, Jacob never said a word about anything I shouldn’t know about Top Shot, dodging my questions and smoothly transitioning to other topics with the deft touch of Steph Curry from deep.
Maybe if I actually interview him I could catch him off guard, I thought to myself! So when we sat down for dinner as a group that night, and he just so happened to sit next to me, I asked him if he’d be interested in having an on-the-record chat and he obliged my request.
Below is our conversation, edited for clarity, from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
So, what’s your go-to beer?
A Guinness. It’s not the only beer I’ll drink, but if it’s on a menu, I’m never going to order a different beer over it.
Have you ever been to Ireland? Do you want to go and drink one from the source?
I’ve never been to Ireland, and while it would be cool to drink a Guinness there, it’s not a yearning that I have. I don’t need to.
Okay, then what are your top 5 bucket list travel destinations that you’ve never been to?
Patagonia. New Zealand. The National Parks — all of them. In two goes. The Wyoming + Montana trip, and the Utah + Arizona trip. I haven’t been to Iceland and would really like to do that trip. Lastly, the Azores Islands in Portugal.
Since you’ve been to so many places already, what are the top 5 places you love that you’ve already visited?
Well, I lived in Brazil in 2014, for the World Cup, which was a mix of studying abroad and then a summer work opportunity. So I actually fluently speak Portuguese, which is a fun fact about me that never really comes up.
Rio is my favorite city ever. For sure.
I love Spain. I think it’s super underrated. Bilbao is my favorite city in Spain.
Are you Team Madrid or Team Barcelona?
I’m Team Madrid. I think Barcelona is supremely overrated. Rio is just a better version of Barcelona. I think everyone that goes to Barcelona hasn’t been to Rio, so they don’t know how to compare them.
Going back to the original question, I went to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in Japan and thought it was a really fascinating country. I didn’t have the best trip because it was the middle of the summer and 100+ degrees.
Portugal gets the nod. I love places near beaches. I guess the last spot would go to Northern California; in my heart of hearts I preferred my time in NorCal, but if I had to live anywhere in California, it would be Southern California. I did a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, starting with Monterrey and San Francisco, and ending in LA and San Diego.
What’s your last meal on earth? It can be more than one item. Go to town. There are no rules.
I’m going to pig out here and really diversify my plate. Let’s start with a Salmon Avocado roll from a place in Brooklyn called Silver Rice that I’ll give the shoutout to. That place is unreal. Better than Nobu, in my opinion, and the rolls are around $10.
I’m going to pair that with a meaty, whole lobster straight from Maine. Next up we’ll do, like, the perfect shrimp gyoza, and round it out with spicy drunken noodles from my favorite Thai restaurant. I’ve definitely got an Asian theme going on, plus Lobster, and then call me crazy, but I’m going to add a vanilla milkshake from McDonald's — underrated milkshake — I’d settle for Shake Shack if needed, but I think McDonald's has a very good one.
Then we’re probably going with a tacky, chain restaurant chocolate lava cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I wouldn’t have pegged you as a vanilla ice cream guy.
If I’m getting a chocolate cake, I’m balancing it out with vanilla every time. If I can have any ice cream in the world, chocolate chip cookie dough from Van Leeuwen is the top of the list, then, honestly, I’m a little lactose intolerant…
Oh wow, you’re living on the edge. It is your last meal on earth, So I think it’s fine, all things considered…
There’s a really good cashew milk caramel swirl by “So Delicious” that I always have in my freezer from the supermarket. Then I guess the third option would be classic vanilla, probably from Häagen-Dazs? Maybe not? I don’t know…
No pressure. Are you sure?
What do you mean no pressure? This is a ton of pressure.
That’s true. Thousands of people are going to read this and judge you in perpetuity for the rest of time.
I’ve already said that McDonald’s milkshakes are on my list. I’m going to get skewered. I am going to have so many regrets about this. I already feel them bubbling inside. How do I not have a chocolate chip cookie on my list?
Okay, let’s go Häagen-Dazs vanilla, and we’re going to throw in a Cozy Shack Rice Pudding.
That’s a very solid meal, Jacob. What are you drinking? The Guinness?
No, probably not. I think just the milkshake. I drink beer, but I’m not a huge drinker, so for the last meal of my life, I wouldn’t really want to have a beer too. I’m already going to be sick from all the food, I wouldn’t want to add a beer on top of all that.
How responsible of you!
I’m also probably driving home from this meal so I don’t want to drink and drive.
Well, it is your last meal on Earth. We’ll call you an Uber just to be safe. Let’s shift gears. You’re responsible for minting any 3 Moments in sports history that are non-NBA. What are you picking?
I’ll give you one basketball and three non-basketball. The one basketball moment, for me, would be Durrell Summers’ dunk on Stanley Robinson in the Final 4 in 2009. That’s the most I’ve ever jumped up out of my seat after posterization in my life. That’s my #1 March Madness Moment.
Non-basketball; Aaron Boone’s walk-off in 2003. Easy. I’m a huge Yankees fan. Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Michigan State basketball, don’t care about hockey. Next, I would go, honestly, you’re going to have to give me more restrictions here, because I might just go with Derek Jeter’s flip. Then Eli to Tyree. The helmet catch.
I approve of all of those choices. What are your top 5 movies?
Oh, I’ve got takes here. I’m a big Mt. Rushmore guy, so I am going to pick 4.
Gotta give it up to The Dark Knight. It’s a perfect movie. It’s my favorite Christopher Nolan, with a very close second to Batman Begins and The Prestige. I just think The Dark Knight nailed it. It’s my #1 superhero movie ever. Then I’m going with Shawshank Redemption, Good Will Hunting, and Superbad.
That is a very strong list. Who is the one NBA player that you haven’t had the chance to meet and interact with yet that you’re itching to meet?
There is no one.
You’ve met everyone?
Back in the day, I covered the league.
What did you do before Top Shot?
Right before Top Shot, I was looking for a job, and before that, I worked for Overtime. Before that, I worked for an app called Amino, growing fan communities. Before that, I was a scout for Draft Express. Before that, I wrote for NBA.com, and before that, I covered the Hawks.
You covered the Hawks?
I covered the Hawks for 4 years. After the Knicks, the Hawks are the team I root for. I’m not particularly attached to the players but I know a lot of people that work for the team. Their PR team is what got my foot in the door. I was a freshman at Emory and I reached out and basically pitched them on me covering the team for the school paper. They invited me to media day and the rest is history.
When you were growing up, is this what you wanted to do? What was your dream job, other than presumably being a point guard for the Knicks?
I always wanted to be a GM. When I was growing up and would play NBA Live, I would sim the games just so I could trade and build rosters. It’s unrealistic at this point and I’m not even sure I’d still want to do it knowing more about what the job entails, but I am very happy with where I am today and the relationship I have with the NBA.
What do people not know about Jacob Eisenberg? Are you dating anyone right now?
Yep. I have a girlfriend named Anna. We met on Hinge. Our first date was a picnic with a bottle of wine on a blanket in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I love her. She’s great.
With that, the recording stopped and the meal continued. Jacob entertained and spoke with the rest of the table and the contest winners from around the world. The next morning, we played basketball together, and with Tyrese Haliburton, before spending another day at NBA Summer League and the NBA Top Shot Kiosk. We took this photo together before I left for the airport on Tuesday night. I don’t know if and when I’ll get to meet Jacob again, but I truly enjoyed getting to know such a prominent figure in our NBA Top Shot experience, beyond the livestream and Twitter interactions we’d been limited to for so long.
If you enjoyed this interview, you may enjoy the rest of my NBA Top Shot Summer League Las Vegas “Diaries” and coverage, including my interview with Chris Kelly, co-owner of the Sacramento Kings, the “Part One” Vegas recap blog post I published after my first full day at Summer League, Part One + Two of my Las Vegas NFTeach Podcast conversation with Jeremy Williams, Chris Otis, and Adam Fisch, and my live coverage of the full experience with the #PackripAtSummerLeague Twitter hashtag.
As always, thank you for reading. See you at the next pack drop!