First things first: Thank you for the invitation, John Doleva.
Mr. Doleva is the President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and he was kind enough to invite Thing 1, aka Noah, and me to the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony a couple weeks ago at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., just down the road from his office.
Mr. Doleva had actually invited The Beautiful Heth and me, but being very worthy of her name, TBH offered up her passes — to both the enshrinement and a pre-enshrinement reception — to the eldest son.
Here’s a little slice of what she gave him …
Though it started a little shakily, with Noah not feeling particularly well as we pulled into Springfield, it got better from that point forward.
Though the invitations had firmly said there was to be absolutely no photography, it was pretty obvious that was a formality only. Charles Barkley was the first to show up at the reception, and he spent the entire two hours as the featured half of about 500 photos, including one with Noah David.
The greatest thing about Sir Charles, from what we could tell, is that he genuinely seems to consider his fans more like his buddies. Everybody wanted a piece, and he couldn’t have been happier to oblige, engaging almost everyone in some legitimate conversation. As luck had it, we left the reception (alongside our pals John and Beth Evon) at the same time as Barkley, and walked the city block to the enshrinement just behind him. To every fan’s “Hey Charles!” he had a response, in most cases walking over to shake hands and say a few words.
He was the kind of guy you’d want to play golf with (and from most accounts, you’d probably beat him).
The only point during the reception at which Sir Charles wasn’t the center of attention was for the 10 minutes that Dennis Rodman breezed through, sporting a … well, see for yourself in a couple of those photos above. It was nothing short of amazing, the crowd he drew, boom mic looming overhead at all times for any Rodman utterance, and cell phone cameras snapping and snapping and snapping. It was a grand spectacle, which is, of course, what Rodman was known for during his playing days.
Next it was on to the enshrinement, and ladies and gentlemen, here is your class of 2011:
- Teresa Edwards
- Artis Gilmore
- Herb Magee
- Chris Mullin
- Dennis Rodman
- Arvydas Sabonis
- Tom “Satch” Sanders
- Reece “Goose” Tatum
- Tara VanDerveer
- Tex Winter
Here’s what I will always remember: The grace of Satch Sanders, the humility of Chris Mullin, the poetry of Teresa Edwards (and the fact that she called out Dr. J, telling him she almost killed herself as a young player attempting his behind-the-backboard move on her home hoop … which was attached to a tree), the heart of Herb Magee, and most of all, the honesty of Dennis Rodman.
Most people, I’m sure, expected that Rodman would provide some of the evening’s most memorable moments. I know that’s true for me. And he did. But nothing like I would have thought. I figured it would be the flamboyant entrance that stole the show, but that (which was pretty darned flamboyant) turned out to be merely a side note.
First, he couldn’t speak, and it appeared that it might be a painfully awkward few minutes for everyone. Then he got to speaking. It was disjointed, at some points inaudible, sometimes profane … and absolutely the most heartfelt 10 minutes of the night. He spoke about his dad, who he said fathered 47 children and with whom he has never had a relationship. He spoke about his four father figures, one of whom, Phil Jackson, was Rodman’s designated Hall of Fame escort to the stage and stood behind him as he spoke. Jerry Buss, James Rich and Chuck Daly were the other three, and Rodman said, “If you took all these guys and made them into one, they’re pretty much a perfect individual.
“You know, I can be the good guy, the bad guy, the emotional guy, the sad guy, no matter what these guys always came and talked to me and shook my hand.”
He spoke directly to and about his mother, who was seated in the front row, encapsulating an obviously complicated relationship (“Me and my mother have never got along”) with a range of emotions from resentful (“she rarely hugged me or my siblings, she didn’t know how”) to respectful (“she managed, she worked her ass off”) to regretful (“I’m not like most of you guys who sit there and say, ‘When I make money in the NBA I’m gonna take care of my mother and father’ … I was a little selfish for that”) to nearly apologetic (“I haven’t been a great son to you at all the last 10 years”), and finally, to this: “Hopefully, I can love you, like I used to when I was born.”
But his most poignant moment was reserved for his wife and three children.
“I just and I haven’t been a great father, I haven’t been a great husband … I can’t lie about that, but she’s tolerated everything from me for 11 years and she’s raised three beautiful kids. She’s been a mother and a father, and I’ve been very much appreciative of what she’s done.
“I have one regret,” he said, crying. “I wish I was a better father.”
You know, most days, I do, too. Maybe we can all be better in that regard, and I certainly know that I can.
On this one particular night, however, thanks to the invitation of John Doleva, the companionship of John and Beth Evon, and one typically selfless act of The Beautiful Heth, I got it pretty much right … simply by showing up. I know this because at one point in the evening, Noah — who is not prone to exaggerating his glee, by the way — turned to me and said, “I think this is the best day of my life.”