The goosebumps hit me at 7:45 pm. I’m in New Orleans’ Smoothie Center, surrounded by almost 15,000 fans. Gary Clark Jr. is playing the national anthem on a guitar like only he can. The 2014 NBA all-star game is about to start and I’m overcome with feelings of nostalgia. I take some time to pray while Gary’s guitar strings fill the arena with beautiful sounds. I give thanks to my family members who helped me get here and for having a job that allows me to continue chasing my dream.
It seems like just yesterday I was watching Magic Johnson sink 3 straight 3-pointers on his way to the MVP award in 1992’s midseason classic. Now, he’s on the court in a suit, alongside Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone. I remember going out to play basketball in front of our house after that game, impersonating Magic’s last triple. The way he held his form, grinning from ear to ear and looking like the happiest man on the face of the earth.
As I watch him and the other NBA greats, I can’t help but feel the same way. It’s a feeling I’ve had numerous times during the past 2 years in San Antonio. From Johnny Manziel’s heisman trophy celebration in New York City to the Spurs’ run to the NBA Finals, I’ve covered some unforgettable moments these past couple years. Trips like these make moving halfway across the country to chase my dream well worth it. While I’ve sacrificed time with my family, I’ve learned a lot about myself, life, and this profession. My desire to improve continues to grow so I know this is the right career for me. Plus, I’ve made memories I’ll pass along to my children and theirs. However, they might not believe some stories.
For instance, I’m in a small bathroom in the arena after the all-star game is over. My back is to the bathroom door when I hear 2 men walk in. I recognize one of their voices right away. It’s Shaq. Without turning around I say, “Is that Count Shaqula?” He laughs before confirming his presence. A couple weeks later, Shaq is at his old high school in San Antonio. Cole is retiring his number and I’m part of the media pack there to interview him. As soon as he walks up I call him Count Shaqula. He does a double take before smiling and saying, “I remember you.” Yeah, the grandkids definitely won’t believe that. You can make this stuff up but it’s a lot more fun living it.