Tuesday, November 09, 1999

Hoop Dreams

I’m not sure when I first had the dream.

Maybe it first came to me while growing up in the desolate Indiana farm country. Using a milk crate nailed on a telephone pole under a flickering street light, I would shoot free throws incessantly until my mom forced me to bed each summer night.

Or maybe it first came to me as an impressionable high school junior, after being cut from the varsity basketball team by a coach who thought my skill set would be “more of an asset to the cross country team”. That was his sugarcoated way of telling me that I couldn’t make a shot if I were ten feet tall and two feet from the basket.

To be truthful, the dream probably didn’t occur to me during those looong Indiana summer nights since I didn’t actually grow up shooting at milk crates or peach baskets or butter churns in Indiana or Kentucky or North Carolina or ANYWHERE with even a semblance of a hoops tradition. On the contrary. I was living in a basketball void—southeastern New Hampshire, which is better known for it’s stumping would-be presidents than it’s dunking would-be collegians.

In reality the dream was fueled by a singular event in June of 1995. It was then that an until recently unknown high school senior basketball player from Mauldin, South Carolina, was selected as the 5th overall pick in the NBA draft. In a matter of twenty-four hours, Kevin Garnett—only one month removed from his 19th birthday—was transformed from local high school legend to professional basketball millionaire.

Some dreams die hard. For me the dream lasted as long as the life-span of a fruit fly, because I knew I was horrible at basketball and would never play in the NBA.

But in the spring of ‘98 the dream came to me again, in another form. This time, I was no longer dreaming of playing in the NBA. I was half-wittedly musing of getting drafted to play in the NBA. I had no delusions of taking a single dribble in a single professional game. Rather, I had delusions of smokescreening some NBA front office person into being silly enough to make a long-shot play for a skinny white boy from New Hampshire.

I soon got to work on devising my personal open invitation to all twenty-nine NBA teams.

The response from the professional basketball community was, to say the least, overwhelming. The first to come calling were the Minnesota Timberwolves, with a personal phone call from Rob Babcock, general manager.

Wow! Rob’s message verily bled of sincerity! The Timberwolves at the time were a young team on the rise, and no doubt Rob had pegged me as an integral cog in the Minnesota basketball machine. Sadly, I neglected to return Rob’s call as I became otherwise occupied with watching episodes of Survivor.

The next contact came from Donnie Walsh, president of the Indiana Pacers.

Subsequently, I was contacted by the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite the absence of a bona fide offer, General Manager Bob Weinhauer did have a number of other valuable insights into my present situation.

Now, while I was deeply touched by the personal nature of Pete Babcock’s handwritten response on behalf of the Atlanta Hawks, I was likewise offended by the Los Angeles Lakers’ “standard rejection letter” format.

Growing up as a Boston Celtics fan, I would never work for the crummy Lakers anyway. I just sent them a copy out of common courtesy. Besides, their reference to someone with “[my] qualifications” inferred that I was overqualified for a position on their team.

The final entry in this NBA dream lottery was the New York Knickerbockers. Now, I’m not really sure what the heck a Knickerbocker may be, or even a Knick for that matter, so evidently this is an organization that is thoroughly confused. Thoroughly, thoroughly confused.

Alas, maybe my dream was not meant to be. Finally I can fade from the limelight knowing I gave it my all, one-hundred and ten percent, at least on paper, that is. And as for all you NBA owners, presidents and general managers: y’all had your shot and ya’ blew it! A golden opportunity like this comes around only once in a lifetime. Okay, maybe twice. I plan to give my agent a call as soon as I finish savoring those final episodes of Survivor.

See and hear all the responses:

My invitation to all twenty-nine NBA teams.
Voicemail from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Reply from the Indiana Pacers.
Reply from the Milwaukee Bucks.
Reply from the Atlanta Hawks.
Reply from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Reply from the New York Knicks.

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