My dad saves everything. For a long time, this tendency annoyed me. Recently, though, I realized that for every one of my worthless elementary school lunch menus sitting in a paper bag in his basement, right next to it is a hilarious, terrifying, and/or touching piece of my childhood. It just so happens that many, many of these tokens of nostalgia—papers, drawings, notes—are focused on basketball. I was as passionate in my fandom as a child as I am now. In this series, I'll share with you some of the artifacts uncovered while digging through the minutiae of my youth.
Another set of goodies I found during my Christmas visit. We've got a little bit of everything here. A super cool poster, another stellar piece of art like a regular Jeff Koons, some pretty conservative, old white man thoughts on the NBA lockout, you name it. Aside from the first one and the lockout one, these are all from sixth grade, as far as I can tell. It was a cool year.
Artifact #1: An introductory letter to pen pal
There are a lot of interesting facts just on this first page of my letter. You find out about the very special speaker who came to my school that day. You find out that not only is "Regulate" by Warren G. and Nate Dogg my favorite song, but that I love it so much that I named my hermit crab "Warren." Most importantly, though, you finally get definitive confirmation that yes, I did indeed have Shaq's album.
Artifact #2: A plea to come watch the Heminway Hornets on Friday nights
Listen, guy, what else are you gonna do on a Friday night? Go meet some girls? Get your drink on? Watch the Knicks and see Jason Kidd DROP DIMES? Fuck all that noise. Come see the Heminway Hornets. Check out that charity game! Cedric Ceballos and Rex Chapman?! That's so good it doesn't need a verb!
Artifact #3: Just a folder with Shawn Kemp dunking over David Robinson on it, no big deal
You'd think I would have been wary of anything showing The Admiral in a negative light, but apparently Shawn Kemp power violence jams trumped that notion and just about everything else. If I saw this folder in a store today, I'd buy it, regardless of price or lack of any idea what to do with it aside from just staring at it like forever.
Artifact #4: A couple lists of players with specific skill sets
I'll tell ya, just about anybody can dunk. Ball handling, though? Only Kenny. (Hey, remember LaPhonso Ellis? Remember LaPhonso Ellis!)
Artifact #5: An opinion paper on the NBA lockout (7th grade)
Sometimes when you're a kid, you subscribe to Sports Illustrated and you read Rick Reilly and no one tells you that he's a sentimental fool and that his cutesy morality play of a column is actually dangerous to impressionable little brains. So then, after you get older and go to a liberal arts college and take some sociology classes and become, ya know, more of a "power to the players" type of guy, you look back at sentences you wrote in childhood papers, such as the following ones, and cringe: "I feel that this whole situation is setting a bad example for children. It is teaching kids that they can be spoiled and only think about money...What ever happened to the love of the game?" At least I wasn't reading Phil Mushnick.
So the hand in the middle is technically the reason this is here. It says "Penny" on it, because from 4th to 6th grade, I was the president of my own Penny Hardaway fun club, as you know from previous posts. But don't leave this page before you take a good look at the rest of these hands. You've got the hand making the "Westside" sign and repping my favorite sports teams from that period. You've got the hand with an alien, some supermodels and female MTV personalities, and a broken pinky. You've got the hand with an alien, a smiley face, and a broken pinky. And then you've got the hip-hop hand, featuring the likes of Ghostface, Lil' Kim, Westside Connection, and a 2Pac two-finger ring. The glitter? All gold everything.