By JOE R. BOWLING, JR.
Special to the NEWS
I have been fortunate now to cover three major events regarding the National Basketball Association and each will carry memories that will last for the rest of my life. From my first taste at the NBA Draft in Toronto back in 1995 to a season opener featuring the world champions and some of the greatest players ever, to this week in which some of the future stars found their way to South Padre Island for four wonderful days.
When I got the call to cover the draft, I had an interest as there was potential for a kid I had watched grow up in front of my eyes to get drafted. I knew that he had a real chance and the local paper and the radio station asked me to make the trip out of the country. I went in a heartbeat and can still remember seeing this kid named Kevin Garnett walking through my hotel with his family and friends the day before, hoping he would be a number one pick.
It was the first time I would be close enough to interview a seven-footer as Dikembe Mutambo ducked through the doorway into the lobby and it was my first time to sit with some media greats that I had watched on TV for years and find my way into conversation and stories.
That player (Chris Carr) was drafted that year by the Phoenix Suns which led me directly on target for my second phase of coverage. Garnett was the number one pick! With Carr making the team I got another great chance to see something great. It was opening day in Phoenix and I had taken a long bus trip to cover their first home game and the pro debut of Chris. I remember a bunch about that, but mostly I remembered being ushered in as they were going through a pregame walk through and when Chris saw me I received one of the biggest smiles I can remember at my being there.
I later wrote of a memorable shooting display put on by Chris and some other greats and have stories about what a locker room filled with Charles Barkley in the mix was all about. Akeem Olajuwan blocked Chris’ only shot attempt into the first row of the stands and my friends I could go on and on.
So now comes part three and the NBA D-League Showcase. This time around I saw players in what I consider the final stage of players giving every ounce of energy at the hopes that they get noticed. In my preview and story of day one I talked about how these guys, some still kids, are working each day for a shot at playing in the NBA. The tempo though is much faster than what the NBA appears on TV and from the front of the press row I can assure you it’s – at times – a blur.
My memories will be of watching Dexter Pittman smile to one side of a gym as a couple of guys from the Miami Heat acknowledged his play and the same smile on the other side of the gym when his brothers were there to see him work. I will remember seeing Antoine Walker working a half hour before anyone else came in the gym on jump shots. Walker, who in NBA years is considered ancient was visibly older than anyone out there but his want to stay in the game was there. I take memories of a packed house as the Rio Grande Valley packed the Convention Centre to the gills and I will remember that 16 games seem like two when you’re watching something you love. That’s my big three, if you will, even though I’ve covered more with stories each to tell.
As for part four and the hopes of expanding the trio of experience? Well, those that know me understand that my announcing dreams would be the lead announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Radio team followed by a chance to be the voice of the Missouri Tigers. A more realistic dream though is a chance to announce for the D-League, which was something that I limited my dreams to because of lack of schooling. Do not get me wrong, I love high school sports and am truly grateful to be blessed with a chance to call games for the Greyhounds and for teams here in the Valley. Found out though that perhaps it’s time to reassess! Dreaming again for sure of that big break.