I’ve been fortunate when it comes to sporting events. For someone who never went to more than a handful of games per year, my track record for excitement is notable, headlined by David Cone pitching a perfect game (something done only one 20 times since 1880) & the first game I ever attended featuring a one-handed pitcher named Jim Abbott tossing a no-hit against the Indians (something done only once in MLB history, at least by a man with one hand).
Now I have a basketball game to add to the list.
A few weeks back my friend James Mignon (who is really more like one of those non-related relatives) invited me to the Easter Sunday matchup between the New York Knicks & the Chicago Bulls. James is a fellow NBA nut-job, so I knew I’d be in good company. At the time though I’d become so increasingly frustrated with the Knicks, my first love, that I’d considered jumping ship and going all-in on the Brooklyn bound Nets (who will be a 15 minute walk from my apartment this Fall!). The NBA lover in me could not longer stomach the whim & stupidity of pigheaded ownership & horrific mismanagement. Unfortunately, the men in offices have more to do with a team’s success then the titans on the floor, and the men in the NYK offices, well, suck.
But like any true love, through thick and thin, better or worse, ’till death do us part, we’ll be together. And if my marriage to the Knicks craved a match to rekindle our fire, Sunday provided a blowtorch! I’ll spare the recap (it’s here if you’d like), but safe to say the game was that of legends. The Knicks at home on Easter playing the best team in the East whose star returned to the lineup in front of a national audience. The Knicks, shorthanded, jump out to a 31-19 lead. The Bulls catch and surpass them, but the Knicks claw back. Rose seemingly seals the game with a 4 point play, then three-point lightning rod Steve Novak takes a corner trey that goes half-way down, round and round, and out, crushing the Garden. But defense saved the day giving Melo a chance to tie the game with a deep three, and boom, overtime! Then down 2 with 13 seconds to go Melo has the ball from the exact same spot and bang!! Another 3 and the Knicks win with a Hollywood overtime score of 100-99!!!…hmmmm…so much for the non-recap.
Amped up following that incredible game, James and I had to find a hoop after dinner. We shot around talking basketball, swapping stories, mimicking the release of notable players. It was incredible.
But Sunday wasn’t the first basketball playing I did this weekend. For the first time in almost 2 years, I wrapped my ankles, pumped up the ball, and hit the park. It wasn’t pretty, and walking home was borderline unbearable, but I gotta say, I loved it. The place was crawling with kids, and we had a blast. Just good, fun, pickup ball. The highlight, though, came in the form of a name. Back in the late 90s early 00s, if I was the only white dude playing I was often called Chris Mullin. Saturday, all the kids referred to me as Steve Novak. Makes sense, but recalling my former nickname makes me feeling old!
That’s actually not true. Yes, I was the oldest guy playing Saturday and spent the remainder of the night out of commission. Yes, James needed to track down every loose ball Sunday as Old Man River here couldn’t move his feet. But coming off an invigorating albeit painfully active weekend at HFA & a back-to-back of basketball, I feel more invigorated than I have in some time. My body was born to play, my mind devours the strategy, and my heart has married the spirit. I’m a hoop head, hemophilia and all. If Melo & the Blue-n-Orange helped revitalize my love of the Knicks this Easter, hitting the blacktop & wrapping the OMR ankles renergized my spirit.