Originally published in SLAM 72
The 6th Man: Looking back, I’m not sure how I ever became a basketball fan. My parents were baseball fans, and as soon as I was old enough to leave the house, I was going with them to Mets games and collecting baseball cards. Somewhere in the albums, there’s a picture of me—I can’t be more than 5—wearing some goofy Western-style shirt, sitting in front of the Newsday box scores, cards spread around me like a garnish. I knew the names of all the Mets by the time I was 6.
Somewhere around high school, things changed. For starters, the Mets won the World Series in ’86, which meant the long journey had reached a conclusion. And the second thing was the arrival of Michael Jordan, who was a lot more exciting than Andy Hassler. Leaving the Mets to their own devices (and substances), I began another journey. I was in the 300 seats at the Garden on April 19, 1988 (a $16 ticket then) to see MJ drop 47 on the Knicks. Through the Bad Boys, through the migraines and flagrants, I followed, and was supremely rewarded. 6! Jordan Forever!
That wasn’t all, though. Somewhere along the line, my parents came along for the ride. During the Bulls run, my mom discovered Steve Kerr. And something about him (maybe his ability to knock down threes in the clutch, maybe his haircut) stuck. She followed his career as he bounced to San Antonio and Portland and back to San Antonio. And this year, while I just wanted the Finals to be over already, it was my mom who was actually cheering someone on. I was coming home to midnight phone calls about Steve shooting the lights out in the fourth, and trying to explain why he didn’t get any burn in Game 4. It was my mom who couldn’t watch games because it was too stressful (although Dad was taping them, so you can always go back and watch the rest). There was probably no one in the tri-state area happier to see the Spurs win than my mom. So thanks, Mom and Dad. And you’re welcome.
P.S. Sorry about the poster, Kevin.