Altitude Sports Radio and Altitude TV host Vic Lombardi recently exchanged numbers with Yariv Ben-Naim, 20, at a Special Olympics clinic hosted by the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center earlier this month.
Ben-Naim, from Monument, has competed in the Special Olympics since 2011 in bowling, basketball, golf and soccer.
He combined his favorite sport — basketball — with his passion for numbers as sport statistician for the Palmer Ridge High School basketball team for four years. He also- takes stats for the TriLakes YMCA basketball program.
Ben-Naim impressed Lombardi at the Jan. 18 event with his knowledge of Nuggets trivia, including box scores, their road record and players’ birthdays.
In fact, it was a birthday that led to Lombardi’s interaction with Ben-Naim. When Lombardi told Yariv his birthday, the student at UC Colorado Springs, whom Lombardi affectionately refers to as a “computer processor,” right away knew what day of the week it would fall on. That led to more statistics and even a guest spot for Yariv on Lombardi’s radio show, where — not surprisingly — trivia took center stage.
In a recent phone conversation, Lombardi told the Intermountain Jewish News that he was so impressed by Ben-Naim’s “passion for sports” and “knowledge of the game” that he even invited Yariv to shadow him during a Nuggets broadcast.
It’s a perfect opportunity for Yariv, whose dream job, according to his mother Ilanit, is “anything related to sports.”
Statistics, according to Yariv, are “crucial to a basketball team’s success and my dream is to one day work for the Denver Nuggets, to help them with data collection, play by play coding, video editing or statistical analysis.”
To make that dream a reality, Yariv, who completed three years at Pikes Peak Community College, is now studying sports management at UCCS. Ilanit shared that Yariv has often been told what he can’t do because of his autism, but he hasn’t allowed that to stop him from pursuing his goals.
“Sports is where he’s always felt at home,” said Ilanit. “It’s where he’s always been accepted.”
Yariv describes sports as “where people are able to see beyond my autism.”
In an introduction he prepared for Lombardi’s show, Yariv said:
“While my communication or social skills may not be perfect, and while the time in which it takes me to finish college may not be as fast as others achieve, I believe the world of sport should be open to everyone, and I hope the company that I one day will work for will embrace people from all walks of life and all abilities levels.”
Make sure to tune into Altitude TV on Feb. 13 when Yariv will be shadowing Lombardi as the Nuggets take on the Sacramento Kings.
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