FROM DECEMBER 12, 2010
This post is pretty much entirely meant for Bobbie Hill Fromberg, a Facebook friend of mine in Los Angeles. She and her good friend, John are Laker fans. They gather most every night there’s a game on TV for good food and Laker basketball. For those of you not interested, please bear with me. This is for Bobbie and John.
I grew up dreaming of being a basketball player for the University of North Carolina. I hated High School. I really did. I had a couple of good friends. I had a “sweetheart.” And I had basketball. Other than that, I hated it.
I wasn’t very loyal to my High School team, when it came to basketball. The afternoons before games I would sing to myself Carolina fight songs. Not Robert E. Lee High School songs. Tar Heel songs. Exclusively. That’s all I wanted out of life. Well, that and my high school sweetheart.
I wasn’t bad at hoops. I was the fifth starter. I did okay, though. I got form letters from Brown University and from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, asking me to try out for their teams if I happened to be accepted at their schools. I thought about it. For a minute.
I wanted to be a Carolina player. Nothing more. Nothing less. So I followed my dream. I enrolled at Carolina. I tried out for the team.
I was a freshman at the same time as Mitch Kupchak, former NBA star player and now General Manager of the Lakers. At that time, all freshmen, including scholarship guys, had to go through tryouts. Even Kupchak. Had I known that when I decided to go to Carolina, I might have opted for Florida Junior College in Jacksonville. I would have at least answered the letters from Brown and Berry!
So – I go to tryouts. The summer before, I endured a bout of mono. An excuse? Maybe. But still – the truth. I was slow. That’s my point. I did make it through 2 whole days of tryouts. This is what I tell people. What I try to avoid telling people is that EVERYONE made it at least through those first two days.
My main memory from those two days? Kupchak. He was 6’11”. I was 6’4” in my High School program. He weighed over a couple hundred pounds. My High School program didn’t even mention my weight. It would have been embarrassing. One time during a Lee High game, I was at the free throw line, hoping to score a couple of freebies. My brother, my own BROTHER, yelled from the stands, “Hey! You have a couple of strings hanging from your shorts! Oh. Sorry. Those are your legs!” I was no match for Mitch.
Still – I ended up on the very same basketball floor as Mitch Kupchak in October, 1972. I was in awe actually. I tried my best. There was another guy there. A guy who weighed something like 300 pounds. I beat him running sprints. That is my highlight during the tryouts. He was the only guy I beat.
But I do remember a time, when we played a scrimmage. Kupchak’s team missed a shot. Our team got the rebound. I turned and ran down court on the fast break. I was looking at my point card and the ball, and not at who was in front of me. All of a sudden I hit a freakin’ steel barrier. Or a rubber barrier. I bounced into the first couple of rows of seats in Carmichael Auditorium like a fresh Jai alai ball. I had run, square on, into Kupchak. He didn’t budge. I was like a flea on his freakin’ arm. He just stood there and looked at me, watching me try to untangle my legs from those Carolina Blue pieces of wood and metal, as if to say, “Man. Get up. Play ball, dude.”
I didn’t make the team. And that’s okay. I was ready to move on anyway. Mitch Kupchak helped me realize that. I hope this means at least at bit to you, Bobbie and John. As long as Mitch is there, I will favor the Lakers – a bit, at least.