Former Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh inspires through book club he started while in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- No American professional sports league promotes its stars like the NBA. In the age of social media, several prominent players have developed their own brand, and one player has built a book club.

Ekpe Udoh is not a marquee attraction. The way he reaches many fans is through their shared interest in reading. Udoh is a product of the written word he has consumed, starting in elementary school.

“Then challenging those ideas and theories with the books that I read now,” said Udoh. “Critiquing when I have the chance, and Twitter has all the news, so nowadays, you are able to find whatever on Twitter.

Ekpe Udoh

FOX6’s Tim Van Vooren: “What kind of feedback have you gotten from people?”

“They enjoy it. Sometimes it causes hard conversations, but that is what we are here for," said Udoh.

Udoh is a reserve big man for the Utah Jazz. Earlier in his career, he was with the Milwaukee Bucks, and it was in Milwaukee that he started #EkpesBookClub.

“Dan Smyczek, who is the media relations guy here, he helped me. We had the idea and we put it in place and it’s been going ever since,” said Udoh.

Even when Udoh was playing in Turkey, which is where he made a lot of money before returning to the NBA with the Jazz, he kept reading overseas and kept up the club as much as possible using the internet -- sharing ideas and sparking discussion.

Now that Udoh is back in the United States, bonding over books ranks right up there with basketball.

“It’s even more important now, after being overseas for a couple of years, being able to disconnect from the American way of life, and then reading, as I do now, we have a platform and a real chance to change lives,” Udoh said.

Udoh is not a photo-op kind of guy. His actual get-togethers in Salt Lake City with club members are legit. He really does read and likes to talk about what he’s reading.

“For this session we are reading ‘The Rent Collector’ by Camron Wright, who is a native of Utah. It’s been a good book,” Utoh said. “Further discussion is tomorrow night, so I am looking forward to that -- and the next book is called ‘Heavy’ by Kiese Leighmon, so we’re having a good time with it.”