I remember it clearly. It was March 1995, and I was only four at the time, but I still recall sitting on the floor of our living room in Lubbock, watching in puzzled bemusement as my dad jumped and danced around the living room. Michael Jordan had just come out of retirement, and my dad was pumped.
There is a picture of me from years earlier that my family still has. I’m rocking a Chicago Bulls T-shirt, basketball in hand, standing by my Playskool goal with a Bulls game on in the background.
Obviously, my love of basketball started at a young age, a spark that was ignited by my dad. Since then, he drove me to multiple basketball camps every summer, watched my games either from the stands or from the sidelines and has gone with me to countless games from watching the Olney Cubs advance to state when I was in elementary school, to too many Baylor men’s and women’s basketball games to number.
Saturday is Dad’s & Daughter’s Day when the third-ranked Lady Bears host No. 24 TCU at 7 p.m. If you have the chance to go, don’t miss it.
The most recent game my dad and I went to was the Western Conference Finals in 2016. Game 4 of the series was on my dad’s birthday and he happened to be in town while I was in Oklahoma City to cover Texas Tech in the Big 12 baseball tournament. Naturally, I freaked out when tickets went on sale and they were actually in the price range of a journalist’s salary.
After more excitement on game day, I dragged my dad to Chesapeake Energy Arena hours before tip. We didn’t do any of the pregame activities outside. Instead we waited, first in line, at the door because I did not want to miss pregame shootaround.
Through all of this, my dad just shook his head and grinned at me. Maybe he was silently acknowledging internally that he created this basketball-obsessed monster (not Monstar, as he was the one to take me to see Space Jam. And I love Space Jam).
If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be a sportswriter. Every March my house wouldn’t look like NASA on launch day, with as many screens as I can accumulate featuring a different college basketball game.
If it wasn’t basketball, it was baseball. Only two hours from Arlington, my family went to at least one Texas Rangers game a year. My brother was even born on Opening Day in 2000. It didn’t take long after we walked through the gates at, what I will always call, The Ballpark in Arlington that either my dad or I found the programs and a pencil. After scanning through the program, we found the scorecard.
That’s how I learned to keep a book for baseball and softball. Simultaneously keeping score and trying to eat my helmet ice cream sundae before it melted in the Texas heat all while watching the Rangers.
We’ve spent an innumerable amount of time since then together either watching or playing sports. From a game of H-O-R-S-E in the driveway after school, to catch in the middle of the street to the Dallas Stars winning the Stanley Cup in 1999 to trying to distract each other during the World Series when the Texas Rangers broke our hearts, this time with my dad centered around one sport or another has played a major role in shaping me into who I am today.
A few of those lessons are still making an impact on me. When I was in eighth grade, I had one of my worst basketball games. Afterward, my dad asked me what happened, and I told him that the girl guarding me was calling me a certain word the entire game. While my grandma wasn’t happy and marched right up to that opposing coach to let him know “about the character of his team,” as she kindly put it later, my dad and I went to work once more in the driveway. And as we played one on one, he made sure hearing that word never threw me again.
While my days of competitive basketball are done, that lesson still applies when I log onto social media. Twitter can be awesome sometimes, but it can quickly turn into the bathroom wall where people can say whatever they want with no fear of consequences. Don’t let what others define you as throw you from your purpose.
Another lesson I’m still working on is forgiveness. Because I’m still mad at Nelson Cruz. Always use two hands to catch a fly ball.