I grew up in the Southeast end of Brooklyn, a working-class neighborhood called Marine Park. Yards are a frill in Brooklyn, but I was fortunate enough to have one, including a cramped slab of cement that served as a basketball court. It was there that I fell in love with the game. When my sister died abruptly and unexpectedly at 10 years old -- I was nine -- basketball became my outlet. My coping mechanism. My escape. Through the game, I met most of my lifelong friends, carved out an off-the-court career, and indirectly met my wife. But, it all starts in that backyard. Chain net, lowered rim, Nike hightops. And doing my best Harold Miner impression after he snatched the '93 Slam Dunk crown. Don't mind the soccer ball. Dr. Naismith used one, too.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Standing at the top of the basement stairs in a huddle with my sister, Lauren, and brother, Evan. We’re wearing breakaway warmup pants we got for Christmas, an assortment of headbands and armbands, and patiently waiting for the show to start. Dad hits play on the boombox and starts flickering the lights as the legendary Chicago Bulls intro song, Sirius, starts to play. Mom puts on her best PA announcer voice...“And now... from Milwaukee, Wisconsin... Number Eleven... Connor... NOOOOOOLTEEEEEEE.”