MILWAUKEE (AP) — A good read deserved a face-to-face meeting for Ekpe Udoh.
The NBA free agent who most recently played for the Milwaukee Bucks met members of his burgeoning online book club in person for the first time and treated them to a screening of the movie "The Fault in Our Stars."
Udoh said he took care of all expenses for more than 20 people, including about six who flew to Dallas to take part last weekend. Udoh is training in Dallas in the offseason.
Until then, the group just met over Twitter. Udoh had been thinking about holding a meeting in person for a while. The release of the movie, which came out last week, made the timing a good fit. The film is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by John Green, which was discussed by Udoh's club in April.
"Walking into lunch to start the day ... I was caught off-guard and everybody was talking and laughing and having a good time, almost like a family," Udoh said in a phone interview. "It was surreal."
"Then the movie hits, some tears were shed," he said.
Few, if any, NBA players can say they've started a book club over Twitter. Fewer still probably cite entertainment magnate Oprah Winfrey as a role model.
"I just want to keep it going. I'm coming after Miss Oprah Winfrey," Udoh joked. "Just keep it going, having fun. Next summer probably have another event, and it will be bigger."
Udoh was to decide on the club's next selection this week. He said he pays for books for 48 members, sending out books are he feels appropriate to those who sign up, but anyone can join the discussion on Twitter.
On the court, the career backup forward was bothered by knee and ankle injuries that limited him to 42 games in 2013-14. He wouldn't mind returning to the Bucks, though the book club will live on.
"I'm going to keep it going wherever I'm at, in Milwaukee or not," he said.