Monday, January 29, 2007

what if (in memory of richie hardaway)

back in the second half of nineties we used to live the best life of our lives.
we were young kids playing ball, going to school, falling asleep at nine p.m., collecting any sports
stickers, dreaming about cars and so on.
there had been our ancient playground, called "lagoon" (i don't know why), one broken-down car
from the sixties next to a right-sideline bench, and we carried on playing and playing.
(when i heard almost 4 yrs ago that they're closing "lagoon" down, i was completely burnt up.)
i remember one morning when we were cutting a tree which had been close to the lagoon -
instead of going to write some math test.
our moms were telling us 541 times those "if you cut some of these late evenings out, you won't
feel so tired in the mornings" sentences, but what could stop us?
simply, we got down to playing the streetball, streetball and nothing else.
nothing else has mattered.
me, enrico aka small ball, marco aka higher jam, george aka joystick, pieter aka double-bang,
coco aka kiss it there, valdes aka jumpin' fish, these seven streetball junkies, we always got on
oh, those distant times.
and then, one day, then there stood he - a youngster with a blue ball - alone on the court.
we invited him to play with us and he nodded... then he opened his mouth for the first time and
told: *my name's richie hardaway*.
even for us, for guys who were comfortable with nicknames, that sounded, well, oddly.
*ya gotta be the magic fan,* i joked.
*no, at all.
i'm the successor of penny hardaway, if you know him,* he told with almost closed lips.
damn... darn it!
who'd not know penny!?
of course, he's the past in the nba now, but in our salad days, he was an icon for basketball fans.
(this section is only for fans who are 18 yrs old and younger:
mr. anfernee hardaway, born - july 18, 1971; 6' 7", nicknamed "penny" by his grandmother;
college - memphis state, nba draft - 1993, golden state warriors, third pick overall, but
immediately moved to orlando magic; a member of 1996 u.s. olympic basketball team; all-nba
first team in 1995 (stockton, penny, pippen, k-malone, d-robinson) and 1996 (penny, jordan,
pippen, malone, robinson) - yeah, he was sooo special; nba all-star (1995 - 1998); he suffered a
left knee injury in the 1997-98 season, came back later to 1998 all-star game and re-injured his
knee badly; in 1999 he signed with phoenix suns, in 2004 was traded to new york knicks; that's
his career in a cube.)
*so show us what you can do,* said coco.
richie took the ball, made three dribbles between his legs, started running toward the rim and
threw a righthanded dunk.
it was in 1998, thirteen years old child!
we began our camaraderie and the spirit of it grew higher and higher.
after so many years with him on the concrete, battling against opposing squads, having fun,
making impossible plays, high-fiving, hugging and as well going through a lot of pain from losses,
he suddenly died in the summer of 2002 in a car accident - young, with an enormous talent, an
awesome fella - some sleepy driver crashed into his father's car with a truck and killed just him.
i can state i thought he had a talent and upside to make some american college, indeed i do think
the same now, even if i've got a knowledge how tough it's to get somewhere as high as there.
could he be an nba player?
in the back of my mind i'm biased a little bit, however if he had some kind of good luck and
health, i've got an opinion that he'd manage it.
yes, he was only 17 yrs old when he died, he could stop playing basketball later for whatever
reasons - girls, pubs, and-what-i-know-what-else-yet, but i sill think he had it.
i've never seen a better hoops player "under 17" who's been better than richie.
seriously, how many children from (czecho-)slovakia have a talent to succeed in the nba or at
least in the ncaa?
he was 6'2'' in 2002, maybe potentially 6'5" in a few yrs, what would be enough for a shooting
he was a do-everything player.
great shooting stroke and range, point guard's handle, he plainly 'n' genuinely could put numbers in
the book.
a terrific passer and rebounder, when he wanted, also excelled at playing shut-down defense.
and he was a crunch-time guy who seemed to peak at just the right times during our games.
however, he never had played for any "real" basketball club here, neither for any school not for any
club in the country, and that's because of *this coach stinks* attitude... yea, he never had been
an "easy" personality to handle.
but, all in all, he'd got it.
what if he'd play nowadays?
he wanted to go to usa in the fall of 2002, so he could have been in the 2003 class, along with
lebron, dwyane, 'melo... just dreamin'...
i know it's hard for the guys from our team to tell about him, to recollect anything and then to put
it open on my blog, but here are the memories - in fact the most exciting memory from every guy -
of bafs' team members (we started this bafs' think after richie's death, unfortunately and sadly for
him and for us):
enrico>*my brighest memory of richie is this: once we were shooting treys, laughing and joking,
and we played until 15 - the first with 15 wins - i had 15 and he stopped at 9, maybe he was 9-30,
i don't know. some guys watched us from sidelines and dared to ask whether someone from us
want to play this game again - with the money in stake. that conceited guy chose a game against
richie, probably "knowing" he's far better. 100 slovak crowns for winner in a game until 10. richie's
opponent started and converted his first, widely smiling and chuckling, but on his second one - he
missed by a hair. richie's turn came - swish, swish, swish - he made 10 IN A ROW!! honestly, i've
never imagined he was capable of that. and that was richie.*
marco>*so many of them, it's hard... i'm gonna with this funny one: one morning we came on the
lagoon and there were some men, probably 25 yrs old and more. they were trying to dunk. and
they still couldn't do that. richie's came out on the floor, glanced at the basket, one, two, three,
windmill! that was sick! i swear that those guys immediately went away home. i swear that they
never ever came back. yes, he really didn't like what he called *soccer-heads*, if you know what i
mean. after this "event" i knew that white men can, really, jump, ha, ha.*
george>*i have one lasting image of him. several winters ago, i woke up 7 a.m. and what i saw
through our window? richie was out there, draining shots, again, again and again. my goodness,
perhaps twenty-five degrees fahrenheit! full load of snow, the lagoon utterly frozen. the guys were
supposed to play ice-hockey. but richie was one of a kind. even in the winter, he lived for the
game of basketball.*
pieter>*this is reproduced by courtesy of me: one evening we played one-on-one. i started with
the rock, using one tricky move to get around him, then laying it up. score, 2-0. i should have
been more careful. every good play of his foe lit a fire in his inside. not coincidentally, i lost the
game, 6-20. he played an abnormally good "d". he locked myself out of the rim. i remember i
wished "let scottie pippen come, please". in the end i felt like washed up stiff. he played
all-out even versus his best friends. a punch. a shove. and a true heart.*
coco>*i know it's only kids' story, a pick up game that is long forgotten and nobody cares about it
anymore. but here are the facts: we were in a street series with another streetball team, games
tied at 2-2. in the final showdown, we were down 8 points and the game leaned to its final minute.
here's what happened: richie's right-to-left crossover, reverse dunk - down by 6. they missed a
shot from the key, richie snatched the rebound. a hand-off with me, richie burying a three-pt shot,
down by 3. then he stole the ball, went out behind the 3-pt line, faked a shot and found me
unopposed under the basket - all i had to do was give it in, down by 1. on the ensuing sequence,
he intentionally fouled their best man - and he choked, 0-2 free throws. last play for us,
richie sealed it with a floater, then topped it off with a chuckle. he was our micheal jordan. i said
micheal jordan, baby.*
valdes>*you know, in 2000, i had absolutely no consciousness that there's some dwyane wade.
then it was the first time when i had a opportunity to watch (live) those so-called circus shots. he
should have applied for a patent on these shots and forays to baskets. and now d-wade'd pay. i
thank god for a chance to be with him, both on and off the court. a chance to play, you know, with
an ultimate b-ball schooler. these words remain engraved in my mind: "we ain't gonna win. we're
gonna wipe them out."*
what if?
what if he's alive now.
what if he'd score in bunches over anybody?
what if he'd play in the highest possible level?
what if he'd be an icon for children everywhere?
what if he'd get a chance to fulfill his dream?
noone knows for sure, but i know for myself.
because i knew HIM.

p.s.: except for layups and put-backs, andrei kirilenko's an awkward, unreliable shooter, who
should apply for membership in the bricklayers' union. (-charley rosen)
p.s.2: it appears that pheonix could be gunning for its 165th consecutive victory. (-johnny ludden)
p.s.3: tim duncan is the best big man, and therefore the best player, in the nba. (-charley rosen)
p.s.4: *the guy is ridiculous.
he looks like rocky balboa.
i was shocked.* (-gregg popovich on manu ginobili after 96-94 overtime win at lakers)

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Jan 29 2007 12:20PM

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