PARIS Sean May looks at ease playing professional basketball again.
Wearing headphones, the former North Carolina standout and Charlotte Bobcats lottery pick bobbed to his iPod mini as he stretched on an empty court before a recent game.
His decision to leave his family and friends and the comforts of the United States to extend his career overseas was made easier thanks to a familiar face, former Tar Heels teammate Jawad Williams. The two won a national championship in 2005.
“A lot of people don’t understand (that) playing in Europe is tough. So, when you have someone you’ve known for 10-plus years it makes life easy; you don’t miss home as much,” May said.
May and Williams have exchanged Chapel Hill for Paris and Carolina blue for a darker shade, but they’re together.
They suit up for Paris-Levallois in the Ligue National de Basket Pro A (LNB). Paris-Levallois has a history with UNC. David Noel arrived in 2010 and lured Williams for the 2011-12 season. Noel then left for a different French squad this season, so Williams called May.
For Williams and May, the days of chartered flights, posh NBA arenas and 20,000 screaming fans are gone. Instead, they recently bused for more than four hours and played in front of 2,500 people before trekking back through the night to the capital. What the small crowd lacked in numbers that night, it made up for with penetrating air horns that screeched the entire 40 minutes.
The visiting crowd was a far cry from the NBA – or even Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The scenery and languages have changed, but May’s game hasn’t. He leads the league in scoring at 19.1 points per game. Williams is third at 16.8.
May credits his success to his health and friend.
“Honestly, I’m more healthy than I’ve been in a long time,” he said.
May, who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010, has had to shed the criticisms of his weight that have followed his career, but his production and the style of play in France should keep critics at bay.
Unlike other European leagues, such as the Italian league May played in last season, the French league plays a fast-paced, athletic and up-and-down style of basketball.
Returning to the NBA is always the goal, but it’s not the driving force to keep playing.
“If it were to happen, I would take full advantage, but we’ve talked about it and we’re both happy,” May said. “We’re making good money (both make $334,000 per season, the highest salaries in the league) and we live in a great city, so it would have to be the right situation.”