As the equipment manager for the San Antonio Spurs, Travis Wade works long hours 10 months of the year to make sure the Spurs and their gear are well taken care of before, during, and after practices and games. He deals with players’ brand representatives and oversees the transportation of everything from jerseys and shoes to medical supplies and video equipment on road trips. Wade is a San Antonio native, a graduate of O’Conner High School, and the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business.
We talked with Wade about his job, the makeup of the organization, and what an NBA Finals run means for him.
Rivard Report: You are the youngest equipment manager in the league. How did you land such a cool job? Was your path different from that of other EM’s?
Travis Wade: I am the youngest, 24 years old, to be exact. I started when I was 22 years old and got the job right out of college. I was a ball boy (with the Spurs) for four years during college. My brother got me the job. He was a ball boy as well and is now a firefighter up in Austin. R.C. Buford has been my mentor and hired me right before (NBA) Summer League, but there was a big transition phase with our training staff so the timing of the job opening worked out perfectly.
RR: No one grows up thinking they will one day be a sports franchise EM, or do they?
TW: Yes, some guys honestly do. As for me, I never knew about the EM jobs till college. Never thought about being an EM, ha.
RR: You travel with the Spurs on the road. Which non-Spurs team has the best visitor locker room? What is your favorite city to spend a day in on the road? (Don’t say Miami.)
TW: Man, that’s hard to answer, but I’d say Orlando has an incredible new visitors’ locker room. Space is key for the EM, so Golden State would be up there as well. My top five cities to visit: Toronto, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Chicago and Boston. The cultures in those cities are incredible, and its fun to catch a baseball game, hockey game or concert when I’m in those cities.
RR: I didn’t realize you had to do so much manual customization to players’ gear. Explain how you use Sharpies to bring players’ gear in line with team standards.
TW: Honestly, I don’t use Sharpies that much to get shoes to the 90 percent rule (players are required to wear 90 percent team colors), but if there is an issue that needs to be addressed that moment, then I have a large stash of Sharpies always on standby.
RR: Do you get to know the players and do they get to know you? Are the Spurs really a family, as we often hear, or are you sort of invisible?
TW: We are definitely a family, it’s beyond real. It’s awesome how different being on the road with these guys is because they are basically the little brother or older brother to me depending on their ages. I see the players every day for 10 months out of the long seasons (with postseason included), so I’d say we are close. But with that being said, the staff is my support group, always there for me. We do motivate each other daily, as in, “Why are we working every day of our lives?¨ But jokes aside, it is a big family.
RR: Tim Duncan has some Marvel-inspired knee braces. Are these under your purview? Is there a reason he has been hiding them under a sleeve?
TW: It’s just a custom spray paint job on them. There has to be a sleeve over his braces per the NBA rulebook.
RR: Be honest, do the guys give Ginobili any flack for wearing Nike LeBrons? Has he at least acknowledged the irony?
TW: No. They (the shoes) feel good on him, and that’s all we care about. That’s what the media is there for, right?
RR: Which Spur has the most gear to keep track of or most requests for you?
TW: My team is beyond down to earth—I never get anything that is an extreme request. Leonard gets the most pairs of shoes, though.
RR: So all the old shoes, used towels, empty Gatorade cups—where do they go? Do the Spurs recycle?
TW: We are big in recycling. There is a campaign with our arena and SS&E ( Spurs Sports and Entertaiment) on recycling. I send towels to the SAMM shelter (San Antonio Metropolitan Ministry) or to local high schools in the area.
RR: I’m sure you’re pumped to be in the NBA Finals again, but are you feeling some of the same pressure on your job as the players, coaches and front office execs?
TW: In this business? Always. But I’m doing something that I love, so all is well. Hopefully I’m not bolding.
RR: Any predictions for the series? Any extra tickets?
TW: Extra tickets against Miami in the NBA finals? You have a better chance calling Y100.