"...My Dad, a refugee from the Vietnam War, arrived in Oregon at the height of Blazermania. He didn't speak a lick of English but still quickly became a fan of the Portland Trailblazers...On a blistering cold December day...my Dad grabbed my brother and me and told us we were heading up to watch a Blazers home game. At that time, I've only seen glimpses of them on TV when they played on the road so I was definitely not a true fan yet. There was only one caveat, he had only two tickets and told me I needed to be "2 years old" so that I can get in free. That wasn't a problem being that I was 5 years old and only 2 feet tall. We were actually not going to the game but going to a theater to watch the game...We arrived at the Paramount Theater and I can clearly remember the bright lights, noisy traffic, and giddy fans waiting patiently in line. This was my first experience of Portland's nightlife....After the horn was blown, and everyone filed out, I sat there with a big smile on my face...I will never forget that experience as a Blazer fan when I fell in love for the first time at the Paramount Theater..."
This is a blotchy excerpt of my winning 7th grade essay for the Portland Trailblazers contest: Memorable Fan Moments. Awarding me the prize was the second most important decision in the history of the Portland Trailblazers.
The prize was a full day as a team attendant (towel boy/girl) and two tickets. I took my Dad and brother. It was our first game ever at the Memorial Coliseum. We arrived around 2pm for orientation and the event coordinator took me to give me instructions for the position. My Dad and brother were escorted to eat at the players/media lounge, tour the facility then up to the suite after pictures and greetings.
My orientation began with them handing me a Blazers Team Attendant t-shirt (If Dave didn't ban pictures, the shirt would so be here...sadly, I still fit it too...check the JD). This t-shirt didn't make me feel official at all. It was an iron on that had those fuzzy letters. I did marvel at the semi-formal process they were taking me through. Orientation was on how to wipe the floors, to dos, not to dos, etc. Yeah yeah, wax on, wax off.
I was the Muggsy Bogues of 5th graders so I figured I was gonna hide under the basket, chill and watch the game. The other homies can wipe the floor; I wanted to enjoy the game. It's a good thing I was too young to realize that I was brown or else the whole wiping the floor thing wouldn't sit well with me during orientation, considering I just did an epic paper on Rosa Parks. I wanted to be the attendant taking off the warm-ups of the players...hmm, that sounded wrong but whatever, that's what I wanted to do at the time.
Once orientation was done, they took us downstairs to get ready on the court. As I walked through the tunnel and approached the court, my heart sank when I saw the glossy pinwheel on the hardwood. I couldn't believe I was standing on a NBA court! My eyes were quickly drawn to the 3 pt line. Being that I was the leading scorer and MVP of the 7th Grade AAU team, "The Hammertimes", I knew my journey to become an NBA player had just begun, and it would be nothing more than a formality but I did have to test my skill on an official NBA 3pt line.
The coordinator called the two of us over to discuss where we would be positioned (I guess I wasn't an exclusive winner since they had some goonie there to be my assistant to the Team Assistant). The coordinator said the first thing we had to do was to "spot" for players warming up early. Holla!!! Hot diggity dog!!! Wooot Woooot!!! I'm gonna be spotting for Clyde, Terry, or Jerome??? I was so excited I definitely dribbled in my pants. The coordinator said all I had to do was listen to what the coaches wanted me to do. She also reminded that the "official" ball boys would also be here to help.
The official kids rolled out onto the court with their full blown Blazer jumpsuits and hats on. There was instant hate coming from my little kid complex veins. It was on like donkey kong!! If they tried to take my spot of spotting the players, I was prepared to challenge them to a game of one on one. Luckily for them, they went directly behind the bench to start filling up water cups. That's right, them homies better dress up nicely while serving. I gave them the head nod of "serve me a cup when I get tired too yo."
I waited patiently under the hoop for the first Blazer to come out and warm up. Out the corner of my eye, I see a big tall skinny dude strolling to my end....OH HECK NO!!! Who's that??? Cooper?? Why is he even warming up? That fool needs to retire! I tried to back pedal behind the basket when an assistant called me out to get the balls from the rack. Great...right after that I see Clyde and Cliff roll to the other end. I can see the assistant to the lead Team Assistant giving me a dirty grin. At that point, I thought God hated brownies.
Cooper was warming up with 15-20 feet jump shots. I was so tired of spotting for him and chasing brickers. I knew I could shoot better than him. Sign me already. After 20 minutes, my nightmare officially ended. I put all the balls back on the rack and waved at the official attendants to get me some water. None of them responded so I just sat down underneath the basket hoping Duck, Terry, or Jerome will come out next.
Cooper headed toward the middle of the court to talk to the coaches. Eventually Clyde and Cliff were waived to join. I'm sure Clyde was thinking the same thing I did: Is this Cooper's last game?
So now nobody was warming up and since I wasn't permitted to seek autographs until after the game, I sat there frowning like Ralphie in a pink bunny suit. After a few minutes, my eyes shifted again toward the NBA 3 pt line. Like a kid with a BB gun in his hands, I wanted to take a shot. With the racks all nicely setup, I decided to go out and shoot a few shots. I hucked the first two...complete airballs. That line was far. The official team attendants ran out and asked what I was doing. I gave them my signature immigrant son hand gesture signaling to them I have no clue what they were telling me. They ran toward the coaches so I hucked up the next 3...and guess what?!?!?! I miss the first but hit the last two!!! Oh man, the first that went in was lucky but the third shot was definitely Rip City...and when that last three ball went in, I slowly turned toward the center and I can see the coaches, Clyde, Cooper, and Cliff grin at what I'm doing. The coaches huddle and started discussing something while looking at me.
The official ball boys kept pointing at me and explaining to the staff what I just did. They continue to huddle and when they broke, Cliff and Clyde walked towards me. I'm sure they were astonished that a 3 feet tall boy can even hit the rim much less make an NBA 3 pt shot. I took a ball out and passed it to Clyde.
Clyde said, "No you can shoot it...How about this, you shoot that rack and I'll shoot this one, and when it's done, you can spot for Cliff." I couldn't believe Clyde just challenged me to an NBA 3 pt duel!!! I looked up at the rafters, then the empty seats, and then the suites trying to see if my Dad and brother could see me. I thought this was my chance to make the bench for tonight's game. I just need to beat out Clyde.
He took the first shot: BRICKKKK CITY
My turn: Back of the rim and off to the left. The official team attendants were chasing down my missed shot. Sucka. I missed that one on purpose to see them run.
Clyde's 2nd shot: Rolls in like Tiger's putts on Sundays.
My turn: I made it too!!!! I jumped up and down almost hitting the top of my head to Clyde's knee. Cliff said, "whoa!!! Hahahah"
Clyde's 3rd shot: He went for some arc and missed to the front left.
My turn: Front rim, backboard and in!!!!! I'm up 2-1. Oh my goodness!!!
Clyde's 4th: Rip City...wow, that was a loud rip city...you can hear the swish from Paul Allen's Octopus
My turn: Brickkkkkk. If those official team attendants were to give me some water, I wouldn't have been dehydrated and tired. Sabotage.
Clyde's 5th: It was going a quarter down the hoop and rolls back out violently. Wow, typically Clyde liner that was too hard.
My last shot: The coliseum was so quiet you can hear a pin drop. The coaches, the players, the attendants were Tupac'ing all eyes on me. I had a feeling the other team came out standing quietly in the tunnel biting their fingernails awaiting the outcome. I took a deep breath, looked at the Jerry West logo, lined up my hands to the crease, and let if fly........RIP CITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It did not touch anything but net!!! I jumped up and high five both Cliff and Clyde. Clyde had his hand to his mouth and laughed. He got pwned!!!! A couple of the assistant claps their hand and call them to continue their warm up. Clyde said "keep it up and you are gonna be a great shooter." I knew it was hard for him to utter those words after a disheartening defeat but Clyde was a classy fellow. I racked the balls and hung out the rest of the night with my perma grin...
The next year, the Portland Trailblazers made it the NBA Finals only then losing to Chicago with Clyde's improved 3pt shooting percentage leading the way. Awarding me the prize was the second most important decision in the history of the Portland Trailblazers. The single best move the Trailblazers ever made was when the coaches huddled after seeing my greatness, and decided that Clyde should challenge me to a game of 3s. The defeat led Clyde to work harder in his overall game, and come back to have a Hall of Fame career while leading the Blazers to the NBA Finals.
Peace. Stay cool. Forever.