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Thursday, December 24th, 2009 at 7:19 pm  |  10 responses

Love & Basketball – A Christmas Story

It takes a village to raise one.

by Sandy Dover

Do you remember your first NBA game? The first game you really watched? Do you remember how you were originally introduced to the game of basketball? I do. I was only 10 years old.

My great aunt, my Aunt Mil, always used to talk about the New York Knicks. She looooovvvvved Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and John Starks. She always used to talk about how Michael Jordan and the Bulls were so great, but it really irked her that he kept Ewing from getting to a championship all of those years. She lamented so about how Starks would get short-changed by MJ, how Patrick seemed to always play hard but kept getting outdone at the wrong times, and how (in general) Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy could never seem to close out when their number came up. Don’t even mention the 1994 NBA Finals. That final game of the series, the one that Starks played so terribly in, and the one that could’ve given New York another chance for a championship, she was distraught. That was the first game I ever watched, and from that game alone, I became a fan of the NBA. Aunt Mil taught me well. We’d talk in profound animation about the League, she being a 62- or 63-year-old woman at the time, and I, barely in double digits in age.

She was the one that suggested that I go to my cousin’s basketball camp in Springfield, OH that summer of ’94 (also the summer I discovered rap music—Warren G’s “Regulate…G-Funk Era”, Da Brat’s “Funkdafied” and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s cassette maxi-single of “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” were my muses). Jayson Gee, a former Ohio University assistant coach who worked specifically with former NBA lottery pick Gary Trent, former St. Bonaventure assistant, and current Cleveland State assistant, started the “Operation Giveback Basketball Camp” as a means to literally give back to kids in the city who didn’t have the money to go to a Wittenberg University summer camp or Ohio State University/Nike camp. She told her sister, my grandma, to get me signed up, I got in there with cousin Jayson and I started my journey in the wide world of basketball. Soon after, I’d come over and watch whole NBA Drafts with her and be writing out full rosters of the recent draft picks in tow (from memory, mind you), all while she and I would be speaking about the selections.

I mention all of this, because the holidays are here and in celebration now. It’s the time of year where families, dear friends, and other loved ones come together, and for better or for worse, see each other and can Sandy & Aunt Milreflect on the times, and if you’re part of my family, we have a joyous time with one another. For me, I’m reflecting on all of this because as I’ve sat here to write this column, I do so only a few hours after my dear Aunt Mil passed away from complications from an invasive hip surgery—the day before Christmas Eve. She was 78. I saw her three days before, and she was in great spirits and I was due to be talking to her about the NBA when Christmas was to come.

She was not only the reason for my exposure to the NBA, but she was one of many extended family members who shaped and molded me into who I am today. I owe much to her. So…as all who read this are getting into the various spirits of Chanukah/Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or whatever-whatever, keep in mind what you love, who you love and all that you have. Sometimes, you don’t ever truly realize what you have until it goes, but I was fortunate. I knew what I had in my Aunt Mil, and now that I’m following my passion, I realize even more through the game of basketball what she gave me. Even though she’s now physically gone, I am truly, truly blessed, yet and still.

R.I.P. Mildred Carter, 1931-2009.

Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Thanks for sharing this story, Sandy. My thoughts are with you and your family. So sorry to hear about your Aunt’s passing. I’ll always remember my first moments of when I truly became a hoops ‘fan.’ And, like you, I’ll always thank them for the path they set me on, and the many wonderful memories that followed.

  • Anony Mous

    ^Agreed. This was a great story and glad that you told it. I remember my first game that I attended. It was Denver at Detroit, the one where Rasheed stole the inbounds pass and jacked up the full court shot to send it to overtime, I believe. Merry Christmas aaiirbody.

  • D.A.

    Sandy, many condolences on your loss. This was a great piece to share and I thank you. Happy Holidays to you and everybody, and remember to cherish what and whom you hold so dear.

  • ALB

    You did such a wonderful/amazing job on this San.
    You captured such true emotion. This makes me even more thankful for everyone in my life… & of course this includes you :) Happy Holidays San…& God Bless You. All my love…

  • http://www.debrapriestly.net Debra

    Thanks you Sandy. My heart and prayers are with you and your family.

  • underdog

    RIP

  • don

    RIP.

  • http://llash@donet.com Uncle Larry

    Nephew, sorry for the loss of your “Aunt Mil”,
    but you will all ways have the memories that you so
    eloquently stated in your article. Your Mom and your family are in our prayers.

    Take care and God bless,

    Uncle Larry

  • nastierthanu

    God bless u and urs. Keeping a smile on families face is a difficult thing to do. Writing about a passion u both share puts love and devine blessing behind each letter. U smile she smiles we smile.

  • GLB

    Another excellent article about a relationship filled with the things that are really important.. a common bond, the love of and for another and the inspiration gained from that connection..May your Aunt Mil’s spirit and memories of her continue to inspire you.

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