The first NBA memory I have dates back to 1991. I was six years old getting my first glimpse of Michael Jordan’s first title winning run against the Lakers. I was visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins in the north of Israel on a Kibbutz, where my aunt had moved twenty years earlier. My family was living in India at the time because my father had been working there since I was four. Other than hockey, which even toddlers learn to love in Canada, I had not been exposed to many of the North American sports I would soon obsess about in my teenage and adult years. My grandparents, who lived in Winnipeg, had made the trip to Israel because it was the only time they could see five of their grandchildren at the same time.
Earlier in the day the entire family had gone to see my middle cousin Ohad star for the Kibbutz basketball team in a small dingy un-air-conditioned gym in the middle of the small community near the Syrian border in Israel. My cousin was a young Israeli basketball phenom (by Kibbutz standards at least) and led the Kibbutz team to victory while finishing the game with the most points. Later that night, grandma, dad, Ohad, my brother Jake and I all cozied up in my aunt’s small living room to watch game 5 of the 1991 NBA finals. Ohad taught me about the legend of Jordan, and I became an NBA enthusiast immediately. The joy I felt that night watching the Chicago Bulls win their first NBA title with three generations of my family was a feeling I will never forget.
In the time that has passed since that night, both my grandparents have passed away. I began to play and avidly watch, not only basketball, but also soccer, hockey, tennis, and football. Although I never turned into an elite athlete, I have become an elite fan. The history of sports, the up and coming field of sports statistics and the joy of continuing to watch amazing athletes and artists practice their craft has filled my life with a pleasure that can be matched by little else.
Perhaps the most important gift sports have provided me is a historical sport life events calendar that I keep in my mind. I remember important events in my life (as I think many other sports fans do) in part by going back to sporting events that I was watching at the same time
I remember listening to the Blue Jays win the World Series on the radio on a drive from Montreal to Ottawa with my family when Joe Carter hit his famous home run in 1993. I remember watching Donavan Bailey win the gold metal for Canada in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. My brother and I watched the race in Austria where I was on my first long trip away from my parents. I was homesick and could not sleep so my brother stayed up with me and watched the race in German on Austrian TV. I remember watching Canada win the hockey gold metal in 2002 and then again in Vancouver in 2010 where I was living at the time. I remember my dad calling me right after the win in 2010, and thinking that he was the only person I really wanted to talk to at the time, because the people I had just watched the game with had not grown up with me and could not understand how much it meant to me. My father was the only person that could understand that when a game means that much to me, I feel relief and not happiness.
I am writing this three days after watching King James, a basketball god and the heir to Michael Jordan’s throne win his second NBA title. I am writing because my father now lives in Spain, and my parent’s arrived in Vancouver to visit my wife and I on Thursday evening at 5pm pacific time, 1 hour before the tip-off of the Spurs-Heat game seven. I write because for probably the first time since 1991, when Jordan won his first title, I watched the final game with my dad. I write because when the Heat and this generations’ Jordan won the title, I saw tears in my dad’s eyes. Those tears had nothing to do with basketball; those tears were there because like me, my dad remembered that twenty years had passed since the last time we watched a finals together. The last time we watched the NBA finals together, he was also with his mother. I realized that my dad had that same sports-life events calendar in his head. He also attached sporting events to family memories. I am writing this because I realized that our first NBA finals experience might have been as important for my dad as it was for me.
By: AJ Hirsch Allen – @ajhirschallen – email@example.com