How Uno became the official card game of Atlanta Hawks flights

One thing that really sets professional athletes apart from the rest of us is the level of competition they display at all times. They can’t turn off that refuse-to-lose mentality, and it’s one of the reasons they made it to the highest level of play in the first place.

This competitive streak is on full display every time the Atlanta Hawks board an airplane for a road trip, thanks to the family card game Uno.

According to the New York Times, this isn’t your grandfather’s Uno game – it’s a juiced-up version that can sometimes span the length of entire flights, as if it were a never-ending game of Monopoly. And if you’re not in a very tight fraternity, you’re not getting in on the game.

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The rivalry began last season when point guard Jeff Teague brought a deck of Uno cards on a flight, and before long, several teammates were involved, the Times also said. Once the competition heated up, Teague and fellow Hawks Al Horford, Dennis Schröder, Kyle Korver and others decided they’d doctor the deck of cards and make things even crazier. Anyone who didn’t think they could handle the change was removed from the group forever.

Once the loyal few were established, the players took some of the crazier cards like Draw 2’s, Draw 4’s, reverses and skips from other decks and added them into the main pile to ensure an insane game of Uno that would drive most of us wild. There are no breaks and players are not allowed to sit out of any of the games, the Times added.

The players said Schröder keeps the deck of cards and Horford keeps the score on his phone. Both responsibilities are highly scrutinized and the other players watch closely to ensure neither has been tampered with. Each player knows the long list of rules, many of which you likely didn’t include in your Uno games back in the day.

“It’s such a strategized game,” forward Kent Bazemore told the Times. “You can’t just go up there and play reckless.”

Horford is known as the most dominant Uno player on the team, and Bazemore fell victim to the worst effects of their crazy rules, having to draw 50 cards in a row during a recent game, the report added.

Through Wednesday afternoon, the Hawks have played 46 games in the 2015-16 season, earning a 27-19 record. That’s good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re a little over halfway done with the regular season.

One year ago, the Hawks had a 38-8 record through the same number of games and were nearing the end of a 19-game winning streak that remains the best in franchise history.

Image: flickr/Nate Cull

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