I spent the first two decades of my life in Nebraska. You know, Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers. Go Big Red and all that jazz. Because of the success of the Cornhuskers, the state was and is nuts about football. Basketball, not so much. Oh, I think Creighton University in Omaha always had a decent basketball team, but, well, GO BIG RED.
Despite my lack of childhood familiarity with basketball, Court grew up to be a basketball fan. He loves basketball. From October through April, he is glued to his television every night watching an NBA game, preferably one involving the Denver Nuggets. Last October, I asked him if he was glad that the Cavaliers won the championship.
“I guess so,” he said. “But mostly I’m just sad to see the basketball season come to an end.”
That, my friends is how I feel every February after the Super Bowl. Sad to see football season end.
Court became a fan of basketball, I’m convinced, because of Jen’s ex-husband, Court’s Uncle Leroy. He certainly didn’t get it from me or my extended family. I’m certain he didn’t get it from his dad’s side of the family, the tallest of whom is probably 5’8”. His dad was a gymnast in high school, and probably never set foot on the basketball court in school.
But from the time he was a small boy, Court dribbled a basketball. While other boys dreamed of being astronauts or superheroes, he wanted to be an NBA player. He tried out for the basketball team the one and only year he attended Mullen High school, a Catholic high school in Denver known for its athletics program. That year my mother, despite already being quite sick, was thoroughly angry that her grandson wasn’t selected to be on the team. I thought I might have to wrestle the woman to the ground to prevent her from going to the school to give the high school basketball coach a piece of her mind.
It was around this period of time that Court actually got me interested in basketball. I watched him play the following three years when he DID make the basketball team at the public high school he attended. For several years, I actually had seven-game season passes for the two of us for the Denver Nuggets games during the glory years when Dikembe Mutombo, along with his signature finger-wagging not in my house, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, along with his beautiful nothing-but-net shots, were the stars of the show. We would cheer like crazy when the announcer would introduce Mutombo, using his full name: And standing at 7-2, from Georgetown, Center Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo.
Court and I carefully watched Denver native Chauncey Billups – a scant four years older than Court — grow up to be a professional basketball player. Billups attended George Washington High School – not too far from our house
— and it was clear that he was something special. He was so special, in fact, that Court and I got tickets to the high school basketball championship game played at the Pepsi Center just so we could watch Billups play and win the championship. He went on to play basketball for CU, and eventually played professional ball for the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Clippers, proudly wearing number 1.
Billups is now retired and apparently lives in Denver. I’m guessing this to be true because about a year ago or so, Court was playing a pick-up basketball game during his lunch hour, and the group was looking for a fifth player. Court noticed a man shooting hoops across the gym, and recognized Billups. The group invited him to play, and he accepted. Uh, I’m pretty sure he was better than the rest.
I’m going down basketball memory lane because Court posted this photo recently of his son Cole proudly wearing an old-school Chauncey Billups basketball jersey. Well, I’m not sure how proud Cole actually is, but his ol’ Nana got tears in her eyes…….
If you are a basketball fan and have a few minutes, watch the Denver Nuggets during the glory days….