Earlier this year, Director Dan Klores released his brilliant mosaic on basketball, producing a film series, featured on ESPN, exploring the complex nature of love as it relates to the game. Rather than focusing solely on the accomplishments of the champions and superstars the game has produced over the years (although there is certainly mention of them), the underlying thesis is a candid analysis that reveals the profound deeper meaning and transformative influence that the game has had on the world. Essentially, the power, hope, dreams and possibilities that young men and women -children- have through a basketball, and where it can take them.
“I’ve always felt the greatest thing a person can have is an imagination,” 14-time NBA All Star and Hall of Famer Jerry West says in the film. “Growing up, when I picked up a basketball, I was the referee, the timekeeper. If I missed three times in a row, I’d find a way to put a second back on the clock. When I was a little boy, that’s where my satisfaction came from. I could use my imagination to be the hero of every game.
This theme resonates deeply with me. Growing up there were not a lot of extras in my household. My parents worked their tails off, and made many sacrifices to provide for my sister, brother and me. We had a very humble upbringing. One extra my parents always went to great lengths to provide, though, was a brand-new basketball. Literally, at birth, my father placed a ball in my crib. From as early as I can remember my love was one with basketball.
There has always been something very meditative and therapeutic for me about the game of basketball. Unlike other sports like baseball or football where you need a group of friends, a field, etc to participate, basketball is a game you can compete with yourself in at any level.
Endless hours of shooting out in the drive-way. Endless practice. Endless honing of my craft. It was a burgeoning obsession for me. Every day my own world. Me, the ball, and the hoop. I could imagine, conjure and create, and that was the heart of it all.
I would play a game where I would shoot against Larry Bird. Me versus Larry. Every shot had to be a “quick” 20-footer or deeper. Sprint to retrieve the ball. Sprint to the spot of the next shot. If I missed, it was 3 points for Larry. A make was one point for me. First to 30 wins.
My father would drive me all over the state of Connecticut looking for new games and competition. My first AAU team was an hour and a half from where we lived. During those long drives, I would cradle my basketball and envision the game, who I would be playing, how to instill what I had been working on in the drive-way into an actual game. My imagination as alive as ever.
My love for basketball –and basketball’s love for me- allowed me the good fortune to play at a high level in high school and then also collegiately. To this day, successes and blessings that I have had in business and in life have been –at least partially- created by the lessons the game of basketball has taught me. The dreams and visions that the ball allowed me to have. I can’t imagine growing up as a kid without a basketball.
On Wednesday, December 5th, during our Legacy Club networking event at Del Friscos in Back Bay, I introduced our great city to the “Finishing Five Foundation”, a charity with which BostonMan Magazine will be working very closely.
As it relates to the game of basketball, people -children especially- always want to be a starter in the games. They want to be part of the starting five. While it’s nice to be a “starter,” it’s more important and impactful to be a “finisher.” To be part of the unit that is out on the floor in the waning moments when a game is decided down the stretch. It means more to be finishing games. The finishing five is what matters.
We don’t have much say in how we start life. Everyone’s circumstances and conditions are different and unique in their own regard. But it really doesn’t matter how we start, it’s how we finish. That’s where we have control. We can have an impact on our final outcome.
There are thousands and thousands of children throughout Boston and its neighboring areas that have the same hopes, dreams, imaginations, and drive that I had as a child. There is one difference, though, between me and them: I always had a basketball and many of them do not.
So, every week in 2019, as part of our “Finishing Five Foundation,” I will be buying a basketball for an underprivileged child in Boston. These children will let me into their imagination, share their dreams with me, and I will provide them a basketball giving the game a chance to have the same positive impact on them that it has had on me all these years.
As Dan Klores accurately titles and depicts in his ESPN film series: Basketball truly is “A Love Story.” And the possibilities and opportunities this love story creates are endless. Children already have the love and the dream. Let’s provide them the ball.