I have remained mostly silent during the Kings
’ relocation saga of the past month… silent, but intensely interested and engaged, habitually (obsessively) lurking on StR. But I recently experienced an epiphany that I feel compelled to share with you, my extended Kings family.
When the sickening, gut-punch Seattle News first broke, like many of you I was… numb. In denial, actually. After a few hours, though, a cacophony of emotions overcame me. I couldn’t think straight. I was sitting at my desk at work seething, depressed, raging, hopeful, anxious, resigned… subject to an uncontrollable whirlwind of non-productivity. Thank goodness for Pandora and earbuds. Suddenly, it happened. I arrived at an even more disturbing realization. One that was, in some ways, more terrifying than the Kings leaving.
I have to tell my son.
I have to tell him.
Crap crap crap FTM crap crap FTM crap crap crap. And FTM some more. Crap.
This is going to suck.
For those who don’t know, I no longer live in Sacramento – in 2009, I relocated to San Antonio. This was just after my son’s seventh birthday – and in those seven years he had been well schooled in the finer points of basketball and Kings fandom. In the interest of full transparency, he was born in Los Angeles; his first two years were spent in the land of Shaq-Fu, Kobe’s fro, and a ferocious infestation of Fakers “fans”. Additional perspective: my son entered the world in early June, 2002. In LA. To a Kings-fan father. Let that sink in for a bit.
My son’s first jersey (size 3T) was a Royal Purple #4. As he grew, he worked his way through a dizzying array of Kings gear in all sizes, numbers, and players. As a toddler, when he heard someone say Kenny Thomas
, he would immediately shout, “WOOF!” That love of all things Kings continued throughout his childhood – I raised him right, it seems.
Perhaps even more importantly, though, he embraced the game of basketball. Yes, he joined me in rooting for Our Team, but it wasn’t just about Our Team… it was also about The Game. Before he could walk on his own, he was attempting to put a Mattel basketball through a 3-foot-tall plastic hoop. He has never known a driveway without a hoop in it. Upon discovering the miracle of video games, he immediately declared NBA 2K-whatever his all-time favorite game. The kid loves him some basketball.
Then, we moved to South Texas. After much navel-gazing, I decided I had to have The Talk with him. “Son,” I said, “Now we live in a different town. There’s a different team here. I’m still going to be a Kings fan – but it’s up to you to decide which team you want to root for.” He thought for a few moments, then looked at me inquisitively. “Can I root for both?” Huh. “Sure, you can. But remember, you still have to have a favorite. What happens when the Kings play against the Spurs
? Who will you root for?”
No response. I don’t blame him. Everyone here loves the Spurs as much as we love the Kings. It’s hard to be different than your peers, especially at such a young age.
Eventually, though, he figured out his answer. What did he decide? Well, let’s just say that last year, when we were at the AT&T Center for one of the most memorable father-son moments we have ever shared (Salmons dribbles… drives… pulls up from 12 feet… YES! John Salmons
secures a most improbable Kings road win over the mighty Spurs!)… at that moment, my son and I embraced, jumping with giddiness, screaming in delight, proudly decked out in our Kings gear (me in my J-Will, he in his Bibby). Then we snuck down courtside and got to meet Gary Gerould in person and spend a few minutes talking Kings with him. Epic. I get goosebumps just typing about it.
But I digress. The point is, my son decided that he is a Kings fan first, and that the Spurs can be his team-on-the-side. And I knew – just knew – that telling him that the Kings might move, that it looked like they would be in Seattle, that they would no longer even be called the Kings… he would be crushed.
So, I sat him down, and gently laid out the facts as best I knew them at the time. That things were not yet for-sure final, but that it looked bad. Very bad. He had a lot of questions, not all of them answerable. But he took it better than I thought he would. Maybe he didn’t quite understand? Or… maybe he did understand, but things just look different from a child’s perspective? Maybe he was just thinking he has the Spurs to fall back on for fandom? I didn’t know… and still don’t know, truthfully. But it wasn’t the complete and total meltdown that I feared.
He still asks me for updates on a semi-regular basis. I still tell him (truthfully) that nobody knows for sure quite yet. To spare him from the emotional roller-coaster that we have all been on, I give him simple updates regarding events that unfold, and outline the next steps as we all understand them.
Then, the epiphany. In the midst of all this interminable Kings malaise, I got a text. “Group of guys rented a gym for Friday night. Wanna play?” “Yeah,” I texted back, “Can J play with us?” Response: “Well... why don’t you bring him along, and we’ll see how it goes.”
So, we went. My son was excited out of his head – he plays ball at recess, he shoots hoops in the driveway, he plays ball in youth leagues… but he’s never gotten to go play with Dad before. With the grown-ups. Cool stuff for a ten-year-old.
I reminded him that I wasn’t even sure if he was going to be able to play – we’ll have to see what the other guys think about it. So we got there, and I set about finding the guy who rented the gym, feeling out who were the ‘leaders of the pack’, etc… and using my best influencing skills to secure a spot on the floor for my son. Hem, haw. Finally, I looked folks in the eye and said, “Look. I play on the same team as my son.” Implication: I’m okay with just leaving, if you guys aren’t cool with him playing. At that, they acquiesced… with two conditions. He doesn’t go in the paint – too many big guys down there who aren’t going to be looking out for a fifth-grader. Someone would get hurt. And, we reserve the right to sub in/out – let’s see how things go. Sounds reasonable to me. Let’s play.
And play we did. My son abided by all the rules, and listened to my quick mid-game coaching tips. He defended their 2-guard – and I was impressed with how closely he stuck to his man. Sure, he was a defensive liability… but we switched and rotated as best we could. On the offensive end, though, he soon got frustrated… “Why won’t anyone pass me the ball?” he asked me. I told him, “You want the ball? Move your feet.”
He then realized that since his man wasn’t paying much attention to him, all he had to do was run to the other side of the court and he would be wide open. He did that a few times… and finally one of the guys on our team noticed. Dribble, drive, kick. Wide open shot. Miss.
He ran back down the court visibly upset. He missed a shot! They passed him the ball, and he had an open shot, and he missed it! I ran over and pepped him up. Don’t worry, D up on your man, you’ll get another chance. He shook it off, and got back to playing.
Close game, we’re down by one point. Same scenario: dribble, drive, kick, shoot. This time though, his three-ball hit nothing but net. My son wasn’t quite sure how to react… celebrate? Not? He just turned and ran down the court, little outward emotion, but inwardly immensely pleased with himself. A little more pep in his step.
And that cracked the seal. Even after the other team realized that they did actually have to defend the little ten-year-old, he still wiggled free and launched from downtown, hitting more than he missed. We won that game… and went on to win some more, and to lose some more. The point is, my son realized he could play with the big boys. In basketball terms, he became a man. And I was there with him the entire time, celebrating each shot with him, relishing each win, commiserating each defeat.
That’s when the epiphany hit. Yes, I love the Kings. Yes, I will be crushed if they leave. Yes, I will be ecstatic should they stay by some miracle (also known as KJ). But I also know that no matter what happens with the Kings… My Team… Our Team… my son will go on hitting big shots. And I’ll go on celebrating those with him, loving the game of basketball even more because I get to share those moments with him. And to me, that’s what is most important. For the first time in a long while, I felt at peace with basketball.
And that’s the best feeling to have.
(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)