Daniel Vermeer grew up in Iowa with a passion for basketball. When his academic studies took him to Nepal, he discovered an interesting influence of American cable television: local love for the Atlanta Hawks.
"So you can imagine," says Vermeer, "[I'm] in this little hut in Kathmandu, watching TV and an Atlanta Hawks game came on. With these enormous guys, jumping through the roof, slamming the ball..."
A fascinated group of locals learned the sport and asked for Vermeer's assistance in forming a national league: the Nepal Basketball Association, or NBA. The eight teams in the league came from rural and urban areas all over the country.
Vermeer joined a team and received his uniform: a blue leopard print polyester shirt and blue satin shorts. They offered him the largest size available, but it was still too small.
"The tailor had to cut open the arm hole, the neck hole, the leg hole," he recalls. "So when I wore this uniform, running down the court, I looked like the blue version of the Incredible Hulk!"
Vermeer's team did not win the finals, but he received the league's highest prize: Most Valuable Player. He has playfully included the honor on his resume: MVP of the NBA, 1994.
"That's always a great way to start a conversation....that's my claim to fame," he says.
Listen to him tell the story of his MVP win to WUNC's Frank Stasio:
After multiple stints in Asia, Vermeer returned to the U.S. and obtained a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. His career path eventually led him to The Coca-Cola Company where he developed almost 500 community water partnerships in more than 90 countries. He continues his work on water sustainability as director of the Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
Listen to Daniel Vermeer's entire conversation with Frank Stasio: