Jeff R

oLARRY and Family

It was Aug. 10, the last Friday night of the NBA 2K League regular season, and Bucks Gaming was already out of the playoff picture at 5-8. As a social media contributor for the league, I was asked to track down a Bucks Gaming player for a pregame interview. I went into the players' lounge and tapped Timothy Anselimo, known to fans by his gamertag, "oLARRY." He nodded and we began walking downstairs.

"Jeff, when are you going to post that video we did?" oLARRY asked me.

A few weeks earlier, we had taped a three-minute "tutorial" segment in which oLARRY broke down the details on how to be an elite NBA 2K big man. I knew the NBA 2K League social team planned to save it for the offseason and the NBA 2K19 launch.

"We'll post it after the season," I said. "It's evergreen content. I promise we got you. You should just focus on winning today."

We then did the pregame interview. I thought to myself, "Jeffrey, you have no idea if that video will ever actually be posted. You can't be out here making promises you can't keep."

Bucks Gaming won that last game against Mavs Gaming. OLARRY put up 24 points and 17 rebounds on 9-9 shooting. He put a stamp on his season.

Fast-forward to Sunday. In the afternoon, his mother, Sujeil Lopez, tweeted this:

OLARRY was among those wounded in the mass shooting at a Jacksonville Madden NFL video game tournament. He took three bullets, including one to his chest.

I know this may sound selfish and naive, but my first reaction was, "He can't die. He never got to see the finished tutorial video. I made him a promise."

I'm not writing this to push a political agenda. I'm not writing this to advocate. I'm just writing to tell you how it feels to know someone hit in a mass shooting. Many of us say, "That will never happen to us."

Then it happens to us.

I felt a mixture of anger, confusion, sadness, stress, frustration and helplessness Sunday afternoon. I had gotten to know OLARRY this year. He's a 25-year-old from Brooklyn. His parents had moved to Tampa Bay, and for Father's Day, he flew his parents back up to New York to watch him play in the NBA 2K League in person. His mother was in tears. His father called it the best Father's Day present he'd ever gotten.

To understand how much the NBA 2K League means to oLARRY's Family, one can just read the Twitter bio on Lopez's handle, fittingly named "@olarrysmom."

"I made a Twitter just to follow my son's dream come true and his journey as he plays his heart out for the NBA 2k league PROUD MOM/BLESSED Bucks Baby," it reads.

NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue once joked he'd send oLARRY after me to settle an issue. It was a great joke, because despite oLARRY's impressive physical presence, his voice is soft and his spirit is caring.

All of this went through my head Sunday afternoon. It was less than 24 hours earlier that those of us involved with the NBA 2K League had been celebrating the its inaugural Finals with Knicks Gaming taking home the title. On Sunday, the NBA 2K League community rallied with each other on Twitter to pray for oLARRY. Details remained unclear as Lopez drove several hours to the hospital. I sent oLARRY a DM without being sure I'd ever get a response.

Meanwhile, the identities of some of the other victims came out, including the two fatalities.

One of the individuals was Eli Clayton, 21, better known as "Trueboy." He'd been a close friend of many in the NBA 2K League community. NBA 2K League MVP OneWildWalnut, who also won the league's first Defensive Player of the Year Award noted Trueboy had recently congratulated him for winning his awards. The other, Taylor Robertson, 27, was a father trying to help support his family.

In the midst of my emotions, I wanted to get to know these people's lives. I wanted to know about the other wounded individuals. Everyone has stories to tell. Nobody deserves to have such an abrupt ending. On Sunday in Jacksonville, some of the best gamers in the world descended upon a restaurant to do what they loved and hopefully win some extra cash.

Worrying about a gun being set off shouldn't have been something they had to worry about.

OLARRY was just focused on being a star player in two games.

After finding the Twitch clip being circulated, I chose to share the video on social media. Again, I don't have answers on how to reform gun violence in this country. But I do think it is important for people to understand what an actual mass shooting is like. In this case, the horror was broadcast live on Twitch. The American people deserve the opportunity to hear the sound of tragedy.

I thought about oLARRY hearing those shots up close. Just two weeks earlier, I had tapped him on the shoulder. On this day, his body was being ripped apart.

For many, video games are not a catalyst to violence, but an escape from them. This was captured by Knicks Gaming's IdrisDaGoat, who recently lived in Detroit by way of Marlboro County, South Carolina, and told The New York Times last week, "If I didn’t have 2K, I wouldn't be sitting in this chair; I'd be in jail or dead. Everywhere I go I hear gunshots or sirens 24/7. So it was like, let me stay in the house. I know I'm safe."

On Sunday, that is not how oLARRY and a room of Madden gamers felt. And no, that is not because of the contents of the game or the gaming community.

As the day progressed, gamer BucTillIDie tweeted that he had oLARRY's phone and oLARRY's injuries "didn't look life threatening." The NBA 2K League Twitter mood became more upbeat.

Just after 6 p.m., I got a response to my DM.

OLarry DM

I relaxed a bit. This DM was not about to go back in time and stop the shooter and save the other victims from being shot. Clayton and Robertson are dead. Nothing will change that. But oLARRY is alive and I could at least take some solace in that.

I thought back to my college friend Mihir Boddupalli. During the summer of 2014, he was interning in Chicago while I was interning in New York. On July 18, we were texting about how LeBron James would fit in back with the Cavaliers. On July 19, he was killed in a drunk driving accident. When I'm Snapchatting friends, I still accidentally click his name. It still feels surreal.

I never thought I'd known anyone who died in a drunk driving accident. Then I did. I never thought I'd actually know someone involved in a mass shooting. On Sunday, I did.

Somehow, in some way, oLARRY survived three bullets on Sunday. I'm both shocked and grateful.

Feel better, my man. Rest up. 

And when you're ready for it, we'll post that video. I still have a promise to keep.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.