Nick Kyrgios: Tennis star skips tournament to play NBA game

    Story highlights

    • Nick Kyrgios cancels contract with Rotterdam Open to play NBA showpiece
    • Tennis organizers admit basketball is his "biggest passion"

    (CNN)Tennis player Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of February's Rotterdam Open to take part in an NBA all-star celebrity game instead.

    Having long said his favorite sport is basketball -- admitting last year "I don't really like the sport of tennis that much" -- the world No.14 will take to the court in New Orleans, with Rotterdam tournament director Richard Krajicek confirming he will not stand in his way.
      "Unfortunately this All-Star weekend is the same weekend as the final in Rotterdam," tournament organizers told CNN.
      "For that reason Kyrgios has asked us if there was a possibility to allow him to play there. Since basketball is his biggest passion, we understand his dilemma, as this is truly an unique opportunity for him."

      Insouciance

      Kyrgios is not the first tennis player to take part in the showpiece; in last year's all-star game, Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic played alongside Eugenie Bouchard.
      But the 21-year-old has announced his intentions just a week after he he was punished by the ATP for "Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game," and two days after he released a statement saying he intended to "use this time off to improve on and off the court."
      The Australian has frequently courted controversy throughout his short career. He was fined and suspended for up to eight weeks for his behavior during a second-round defeat at the Shanghai Masters earlier this month.
      Hitting the ball apathetically and even walking to his chair before his opponent's serve had reached him, Kyrgios shouted at a fan who implored him to "respect the game," and was later urged to consult a sports psychologist for his perceived lack of effort.
      Novak Djokovic this week said he's "sorry to hear" the criticism of Kyrgios because he believes the Australian is "one of the greatest talents the game has seen lately."
      But not everyone in the sport has been so understanding.
      "You want to be the best? Come see me," tweeted former world No.1 Jimmy Connors.
      "You will learn to play, excite and to win! It's your choice ... or just be mediocre!"
      Whatever path the Australian chooses to take, the show must go on. Rotterdam organizers have confirmed a "field of players" comprising the likes of Stan Wawrinka and Rafa Nadal will still be playing, insisting "We believe that the fans will still be treated to excellent tennis."