Before asking a single question in the interview, Hank Baskett moves his webcam to the right as a way of showing off a new gaming rig he’s just built for himself. The wall-mounted cabinet is inspired by The Transformers franchise with RGB lighting matching the contrasting red/blue aesthetic between the Autobots and Decepticons.
At first glance, the building looks absolutely beautiful. Spec-wise, it also has all the latest must-haves, including an 11th Gen Intel Core i9 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, and liquid cooling in keeping with the design theme. Build is one of several dozen platforms Baskett has created for professional multiplayer, celebrities and influencers under Customs HB.
HB Customs can be considered a second act for the former NFL wide receiver who stepped into the Hollywood spotlight after marrying Playboy model Kendra Wilkinson. After years of reality TV, Baskett finally had time to focus on his first real passion in gaming.
“I’ve always been a player,” explained Baskett, who played for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. “I was a player, then a professional athlete, then a player, then a player in the entertainment industry. Now that I’m done with all that, I’m a player in the gaming industry. The passion I have for PC gaming comes from my passion for gaming.”
looking to the past
When Baskett wasn’t a kid blowing cartridges and praying for luck, his older brother made him play Wolfenstein 3D, Warcraft, Wing Commander, Dune, and Duke Nukem. Becoming a college football player at the University of New Mexico, he leaned more towards consoles due to the convenience.
“I went strictly for consoles because they were easier to move around in those days,” Baskett said. “In college, I didn’t have room for a big PC and stuff.”
Fast-forwarding towards the end of his NFL career, he found himself hooked on World of Warships after visiting the Wargaming booth at PAX West. Calling his Microsoft contact to ask which Surface tablet could run the popular naval warship game, he bought one at a nearby store and downloaded the game right away.
“So I did some events with Wargaming and they built my first PC,” Baskett said. I was so happy I started streaming with them and it only progressed from there.”
Alongside his newfound appreciation for keyboard and mouse controls, he saw Steam as a “gamer candy store.”
“You’ll see a game in a week that’s $80 and then they’ll have a Steam sale for five dollars,” joked Baskett. “You’re like I don’t need this, but I’ll get it. I’ll put this in the queue. I can play this five years from now, but I will play this game.”
Baskett went even deeper into the game, joining various esports organizations such as Major League Gaming and becoming a co-owner of the portable monitor company GAEMS. As a professional athlete, he also began to have a great deal of respect for esports players.
“I know a lot of these guys who train more than some of the guys I’ve played with in the NFL and it’s a trade,” Baskett explained. “They’re competing in something, that’s what athletes do. They are making money doing this. That’s what athletes do. They are making money off of your name, image and likeness. That’s what athletes do. I’m just saying, walk like a duck, quack like a duck. It’s a duck and I give them props.”
At that time, he also started creating custom builds for himself. This led to the construction of equipment for various athletes and celebrities.
“My father taught me that you stop learning the day you die,” Baskett said. “I tried to find new things. Just the evolution of my first builds a few years ago so far and it’s crazy what you learn.
A PC gaming service for the stars
Notable clients include Denver Broncos’ Von Miller, influencer Jonna Mae and Cleveland Browns player Jarvis Landry. HB Customs has also secured partnerships with PowerA, LucidSound, Newegg, EVG and Optimus PC.
Baskett runs a man’s store like a boutique where everything is made to order. This includes custom cases built in partnership with 3M certified wrappers, as well as getting specific components for customers. While extreme builds can take three to four days, a cooler system can take a few hours. Not only does it pre-install games for customers, it provides various RGB lighting profiles and utilizes TeamViewer once they receive their rig to walk them through the setup process if they are new to PC gaming.
“I want it to be that white-glove service that, when you get it, it’s an experience,” Baskett explained of his builds that topped the $20,000 range. “I don’t want it to be, ‘I have a computer, I have to go in, I have to download this. I have to wait for it. Because when you get something, it’s like on consoles now, ‘Damn, I just got it. Now I have to wait another day just to download everything I want.’ So I really try to provide a service.”
All construction is done at Baskett’s Southern California home. He moved from the kitchen table to the living room and ended up turning his garage into a store. “You look at Google and Amazon, they all started in the garage,” he said.
Like many custom build businesses, the global chip shortage has been a challenge for HB Customs.
“If I showed you my screen right now, I have websites that are constantly updating,” Baskett explained. “They have some in stock, as soon as it’s in stock I’m trying to buy it like everyone else. It really sucks for gamers that scalping prices and this and that. I hate this because there are people who are really gamers and just want to improve their performance and their systems, but they still can’t because someone is charging more than triple the price for an EVGA [RTX] 3080 ULTRA.”
Fortunately, partnerships with companies make purchasing components a little easier. Baskett was so busy meeting customer demand that he didn’t have time to enjoy his own favorite games, including Call of Duty: Warzone, Outriders, and Grounded. However, he sees HB Customs as an extension of his creativity, despite his time away from gaming.
“I keep my job,” Baskett said. “There are some nights where I’m thinking about something and I go downstairs at 1am and come back at 6am and lie down for a few hours and then start the day, drive the kids to school or whatever. Because I like that capacity for power when I want to be creative, I can be creative.”
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1. von Miller (opens in new tab)
- CPU: Intel – I9-10850k
- Motherboard: EVGA – Z490 FTW
- Memory: Corsair – Vengeance RGB 64GB
- Store: x2 – Samsung – SSD 970 EVO Plus 2 TB – Internal SSD M.2 NVMe
- Video card: EVGA – Ultra GPU 3090 FTW
- Case: Corsair – Obsidian Case 1000D
- Power supply: EVGA – 1600W Supernova Titanium PSU
- Cooling: Corsair – Hydro X Series XH305HI Hardline Water Cooler Kit, Corsair – Hydro X Series XL5 Performance Cooler, Barrow – PETG Tube 14mm Rigid Tube, Corsair – Hydro X Series XF Hardline Fittings, Corsair – Hydro X Series 90 Degree Swivel Adapters, Corsair – Hyrdro X Series XD3 RGB Pump, Corsair – Hydro X Series XR5 360mm Water Cooled Radiator, Corsair – Hydro X Series XR7 480mm Water Cooled Radiator, Bitspower – Flow Indicator G1/4″, Bitspower – G1/4 ” 90 degree Female to Female 14mm Fitting
- Extra: Corsair – RGB LED Lighting Pro Expansion, upHere – GPU Brace Graphics Card, Thermaltake – Commander FP 10 Port 4-pin PWM Fan Hub, Corsair – iCUE Commander PRO Smart RGB Lighting & Fan Controller, Corsair – QL Series 120mm RGB LED, Jbtek – PWM fan splitter cable with sleeve
two. Jonna Mae (opens in new tab)
- CPU: Intel – I9-10900K
- Motherboard: EVGA – Z490 DARK
- Memory: Corsair – Vengeance RGB Pro 32GB
- Store: Corsair – 970 Evo Plus 500GB
- Video card: EVGA – GeForce RTX 3080 XC3 Ultra
- Case: Lian Li – 011 Dynamic XL ROG – White
- Power supply: EVGA – SuperNOVA 850w T2 80+ Titanium
- Cooling: BITSPOWER – Touchaqua Sedna pump/reservoir, 12 mm fittings – white, CORSAIR – Hydro X Series XC7 CPU Water Block – White, Hydro X Series 12 mm Hardline Tubing, EKWB – EK-Quantum Vector XC3 RTX 3080 GPU Water Block, PRIMOCHILL – 2 – 360 mm Radiator Exo Slim – White
- Extra: Corsair – 10 – QL 120mm RGB Fans, CORSAIR – 2 iCUE Commander Pro Smart Hub, 2 – iCUE Lighting Node CORE fan controllers, RGB LED Lighting PRO Expansion KIT, EKWB – EK-CryoFuel 1000mL Electric Purple PC Coolant, LIAN LI – Custom Strimmer Cables
- CPU: Intel – 10900k
- Motherboard: Motherboard EVGA – Z490 FTW
- Memory: Corsair – Vengeance 32GB
- Store: Samsung – 970 EVO Plus 2TB M.2
- Video card: EVGA – 3080 FTW3 Ultra GPU
- Case: Corsair – 570X RGB Mid-Tower, tempered glass case
- Power supply: EVGA – 850w PSU
- Cooling: NZXT – Kraken Z73
- Extra: Corsair – iCUE Commander Pro, LINKUP – Custom Cables – Gold and Purple