They say baseball is a father-and-son game. Movie producers and noted scribes have focused countless hours on the subject. “Field of Dreams” is probably my favorite movie. But for my Dad and me, basketball is it.
When I was a little guy, a bedtime break from “Aesop’s Fables” or “Mother Goose” meant an hour-long discussion with Dad about the Celtics of old: the tenacity of Russell, the steady class of Satch Sanders, and just how good Charlie Scott was in the ’76 playoffs. My Dad talked to me about playing on the parquet floor as a kid in the 1960s. And he taught me his #1 weapon: the hook shot. For years, he would end our one-on-one battles in the driveway with a sweeping lefty hook. Later, in high school, I plied my trade as a big-time rebounder with one offensive move that same hook shot. I always made more than I missed, and I never had it blocked. Thanks, Dad.
We lived on the Cape and didn’t have a ton of money, so going into Boston was a special occasion. I remember watching games on a black & white TV in the spare room upstairs with Mike Gorman and Tommy providing a description of the action as DJ harassed the opposing team’s point guard, Bird stuck a huge three in Nique’s face, or McHale, all arms and legs, got to the basket for two. “At center, seven feet, one-half inches from Centenary, number double-zero, Robert Parish.” Chief. Chief. Chief. We would howl.
My first visit to the Garden was January 17, 1992, a 98-95 Celtics win over the 76ers. While I had to look up the box score online, so many things from that night stick with me, completely unrelated to the final result. My first time on the T. Our seats in the balcony (mine was behind a pole, so I had to sit on Dad’s lap). The players looking like ants. Wanting to see the giant 7’7″ Manute Bol and my disappointment when Charles Shackleford started at center for the 76ers. My favorite player, Robert Parish, scoring his 20,000th NBA point. Years later, I visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and saw the game ball from that very night. On New Year’s Eve 2006, I met the Chief himself and told him just how cool it was to be there for that moment.
Over the past few years, Dad’s health has been an issue. As I got older and moved to the Boston area, Dad and I would attend one game a year, usually when Dikembe Mutombo came to town. We loved him. And now, every couple of weekends, I’ll head down to the Cape and we’ll watch a game together, sometimes staying up all night flipping through “NBA League Pass” and talking hoops. In June 2008, when the Celtics beat the Lakers in Game 6, the Sylver house was rocking.
Celtics Basketball and my Dad. Every memory brings a smile to my face, and each new memory the Celtics produce brings another smile that makes me think of the times Dad and I have shared over the last 29 years.