The Jazz, Me, and My Dad


I have a few totes full of basketball cards, the majority of which were purchased at local card shops when I was young.  I had the opportunity to meet the likes of Bill Walton, Mark Eaton, Thurl Bailey, and Bryon Russel before I hit the age of 12.  Some of my favorite memories are of watching the Utah Jazz advance to the NBA Finals in consecutive years.  And for all of these events, my dad was there.

I understand this article is a departure from what you might expect to read.  You won’t find stats analysis, team insight, or predictions on who is going to win game 7 on Sunday (okay, I will give you a prediction – Cavs).  But it is impossible for me to look back on my basketball fandom and not find my father entirely responsible.

When I was kid, we had treat nights.  If we completed all of our chores during the course of the week, we were allowed to go to a store of our choosing and pick out a small treat.  For me, this always meant going to a local card shop.  I remember 4 shops that we would frequent, one of which would always set aside their newest Stockton arrivals until I had the chance to look at them.  I would spend - what I am sure was - hours deciding between packs of Topps, Fleer, and Upper Deck, not even including the time I spent deciding between singles.  I don’t remember my dad ever complaining.  He would actively look at the cards with me and help me choose. 

I met Bill Walton and Mark Eaton at a card shop located in the mall.  I met Thurl Baily at a Deseret Book, of all places.  And I met Bryon Russell, one of my favorite players at the time, at a Jamba Juice.  I am sure that my dad had other things he would have liked to have been doing, but he was driving me around to meet what I thought were my heroes (my dad is my hero forewarning).

And, of course, there was the shot.  “John Stockton sends the Utah Jazz to the NBA finals.”  I have not heard a sweeter sentence from an announcer before or since.  Looking back on it, I am sure my dad found more happiness in watching how excited I was than he did in watching the shot.

A year later my dad had to console me, for what I am sure was an insane amount of time, after the push off.

My father and I currently have lunch together nearly every Friday.  I know he tires of hearing me talk Jazz and the NBA week after week.  But he happily sits and converses with me.

My dad is my hero.  This, my first Father’s Day as a father myself, has made me realize that fact even more.  I am lucky to be able to look back and see my love of basketball and my love for my father so intertwined.  Hopefully in the coming years I will be able to watch the Jazz play in the NBA Finals with my dad again, but, for now, I will sit down on Sunday and watch the Cavaliers take on the Warriors with my father at my side and my daughter on my lap.

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