Brushes with hoops fame and other basketball tales

Allen Iverson, the Only Answer

Allen Iverson, the Only Answer

I love basketball, and this is my favorite time of year for it. I finally become an expert after months of pretending. After Sunday, I’ll be able to find my Cinderella Fella and board the bandwagon.

It certainly won’t be a Big 12 school, I know that. Kansas is a shoo-in, and unless Baylor or Colorado gets crazy lucky, they won’t be making the tournament.

What we need is another George Mason run like they had in 2006. Tired of these big dogs.

But enough about that, I want to share some hoops-related anecdotes from my checkered history with the sport that I can’t play, but have always loved.

Nicolas’ slightly racist faux pas

Nick learned basketball from going to games and playing Nintendo’s “Double Dribble.” He loved it. But he was only 4 or so. Every parent has a story to tell about “That One Time, When My Kid Realized The Difference Between Races.” My story will be saved for a later time. In fact, if I get some feedback, this would be a great blog.

My brother, sweet, caring boy that he was, was enamored with basketball players. He was born in 85, so he got so see some of the best ever while a young boy. I don’t remember how or when this happened, I just know that in a public place, my bro observed some black men. He pointed at them, shouting “Dad! Look! Basketballers!” much to my stepdad’s shock and/or awe. Soon after, Nick made a friend, Delwyn, who was black. He didn’t call him a basketballer. I’m pretty sure my stepdad sat him down and gave him The Talk after the shouting incident.

My love for Preston Basketball

I went to Muskogee High School in Oklahoma. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of my hometown. I was always a little jealous of my sisters’ small school, Preston, in Okmulgee County. It’s a tiny, but active, district that graduates a lot of great students and athletes. My sister Natalie’s basketball team won state while she was there, and Lila’s team was pretty good too. Now, my nephew Jesse, Lila’s boy, is on a Preston team that is in the state basketball tournament this week. The Pirates beat the Pawnee Black Bears last night (Pawnee, home of OSU’s Keiton Page!) in the state quarterfinal game and is headed to the semifinals today.

I’ve been to more Preston basketball games than any other school. I walk in those doors and see my sisters’ names on the banners, and will soon see my nephew’s name, too, and I get verklempt. I love that tiny town. I love the smell of the concessions stand. I wish my school would’ve had a shade of the spirit that the Pirates do. Small-town hoops is crazy fun.

Chasing down Allen Iverson, nearly being stepped on by Chris Webber and stalking a working computer

I’ve covered one NBA game in my career. And I wasn’t even a reporter then, but a copy editor. Allen Iverson was coming to OKC with the 76ers while the New Orleans Hornets were playing in OKC after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. I got my media pass to the game and ambled on into the Ford Center, terrified of what was going on, but trying my hardest to look like I was In The Know. Not easy for a 5-1 girl to do in a room full of giant men who were, in fact, In The Know.

I didn’t know where Press Row was, and I couldn’t find anyone to tell me. So I just walked to the courtside chairs and sat down on the side of the court, on the floor, and watched the first quarter. Allen Iverson’s scarred legs were right by my head. Dude had some major scars from years of abuse and surgery. My love for him grew tenfold, and his yeoman-like work ethic made me want to hug him. And then Chris Webber stepped out-of-bounds and nearly ran over me. Dude is TALL. Finally, my illegal spot was deemed unsafe, and I was ushered to press row. Finally. I watched the game, interviewed some folks, and was all ready to go meet Allen Iverson in the locker room, secretly being scared I would run into naked people and be forever embarrassed. I followed a crowd nervously, still dreading the naked thing, then got to a stopping point. There was ADRIAN FREAKING PETERSON, who was still playing football at OU, waiting to meet Allen Iverson. They made AD wait for AI. My confidence was dashed. If they’re not going to let him in, what are my chances? And if I did get in, we had that whole naked thing to deal with. I knew I would stare. So I settled for an interview with Peterson and went on my way, mental pictures in check.

Then I went to the press room. I sat down, wrote my story, and panicked because I had no idea how to send it back to the paper. Couldn’t get email access. Couldn’t get it to insert into our software system. I asked the guy sitting next to me what I should do. I didn’t know who he was at first. Turns out, it was the Oklahoman‘s Berry Tramel, one of the best sports columnists in the history of the world, much less Oklahoma. He was kind and helpful, but couldn’t figure out how I should send my story. So I went further down the line of busy reporters until Darnell Mayberry, now the NBA beat writer for the Oklahoman, and another fella helped me out. I felt like the biggest loser, but they made me feel less like a loser and more like a troubled little child. “Oh, look… she’s pathetic. Help her.” They were very nice.

My story got out, and the closest I came to actually meeting AI was listening in on an interview with his wife. But I had a blast.

I have plenty more basketball stories, such as how I dazzled men with my knowledge and then they got angry with me for knowing more than them and actually having a valid opinion… but that’s not important right now.

What is important is that it’s the MOST wonderful time of the year. Enjoy it, support your local small-town basketball team, find a Cinderella, and if you get a chance to meet a famous NBA player, don’t be so afraid of seeing him naked that you don’t go in the locker room.

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