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November 11, 2011

I think we all know that it’s never really been about the foul shots. It’s always been about the gratitude.

It’s been about saying thank you, in our own small way, for the kinds of sacrifices that many of us – myself certainly included – never had to endure.

It’s been about doing our small part for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and its mission of serving our nation’s injured Veterans.

It’s been about perfect strangers, like the Winders family and Gill family and Earl family, and Chris Nolan and Jesse Ander and Chris DeBlois, who showed up at the gym or the house to help rebound, to help us say thank you.

It’s been about our new friends in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Bell Buckle, Tennessee, and New Albany, Indiana, who invited us to their parts of the world to convey that thank you.

It’s been about a boy with autism who decided to make our project the theme of his bar mitzvah so that he could join us in that thank you.

It’s been about a basketball team in Cheney, Kansas; and Miss May’s third-graders; and the Helping Hoops For Heroes team at Sea Road School in Kennebunk, Maine; one dollar at a time, joining in our thank you.

It’s been about the students that I’ve had the opportunity to visit with over the past couple of years, and about all the hands that go up when they’re asked who has had family members serve. And it’s been about the ear-shattering THANK YOU that we let fly together upon pointing to the American flag.

It’s been about a neighbor whose political differences with us didn’t prevent him from spending part of an afternoon with Heather and me, making a donation, telling us about his experiences in Vietnam and since, and allowing us to say thank you to him.

It’s been about a Rhode Island mom who, for her 57th birthday, asked her son to come rebound with us for an evening, for which she pledged to contribute $1 per made shot.

It’s been about a Tennessee man who donated the money raised from his annual attempt at driving 21 states in one day to Hoops For Heroes.

It’s been about a fifth-grader who spent the last two years literally filling in a million tiny little squares with a red colored pencil to help us measure our progress.

It’s been about a South Carolina soldier’s wife who set aside her Starbucks habit (or at least curbed it somewhat) in order to make her donation, like clockwork, the first of every month.

It’s been about a guy who decided at about the halfway point of this project that he wanted to help out by assisting on 50,000 of these made shots … and got to more than 52,000 instead.

It’s been about a guy who decided to raise money for the cause by attempting to break the New Hampshire north-to-south cycling record – and beating it by more than an hour – while raising $1,500 for the cause.

It’s been about hundreds of notes of encouragement, about additional hundreds of hands collecting rebounds and assists on the basketball court, about well over a thousand individual contributions from all over the country, ranging from loose change to $5 checks to one individual donation of $2,500.

So many men and women and boys and girls, contributing in some way, large or small, to this, our collective thank you. I’d love to name them all, but I’m happy to say that we simply wouldn’t have time.

It’s been about a wife, The Beautiful Heth, and three kids who understood that use of the word “sacrifice” is not to be wasted on a guy who gets to play basketball every day for two years … or even on his family.

And it’s been about the Decoteaus – Mark, Nancy, Andrew and Maddie – who with incredible dignity and grace have allowed their unfathomable loss to serve as this effort’s most profound inspiration.

In the broadest sense, it’s been about the sentiment best conveyed in the following words, which were spoken by Mr. Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, about a year and a half ago, at the dedication of the Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Maryland.

This is what Mr. Fisher said:

“Those who wear the uniform of this great land are our sons and our daughters, our mothers and our fathers. When they raise their right hand and pledge to defend us against enemies foreign and domestic, with that comes a contract with this nation and with each one of us, that we take care of them when they serve, and long after their service is done. And how well we meet that responsibility is the measure of us as a nation. This … is not charity. It is our duty. It is a responsibility from which we cannot hide.”

I agree absolutely with all that Mr. Fisher said, with the exception of one small detail. We CAN hide, if we so choose, from that responsibility. I know, because I spent the majority of my life doing just that … Free country, right?

But today, we are here, saying thank you in unison. Today, we celebrate that service and we honor our side of that contract. Today, we choose – in our own small way – not to hide from that responsibility.

When Bruce Springsteen wrote “The Rising” in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he was singing literally of the firefighters who ran up those stairs, into those burning towers … but I’m pretty sure he was also singing of each one of us, of what he believed we would need to do, of what he believed we would need to become.

He was asking us to rise, individually and as one.

As you know, this has never been about the guy who has been lucky enough to spend his days playing. It has been about the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way – and the families that have supported them – so that we may continue to play.

It has never been about the one million shots that I have had the privilege to make. It has always been, and I expect will continue to be, about the gratitude that we have been privileged to share.

May we continue to rise.

One million shots. Endless gratitude.

Happy Veterans Day.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Join us at the Hall of Fame: Nov. 11, 2011

“A Million Thanks”

Please join Hoops For Heroes at the culmination of our two-year, collective Thank You to Veterans and service men and women on Veterans Day — November 11, 2011 — at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The final 1,000 made free throws are scheduled to begin shortly after 9 a.m., to conclude with No. 1 million soon after 11 a.m.

[If anyone is interested in staying in Springfield the night before, please contact me at dave@hoopsforheroes.com, as there are a limited number of rooms in the area on hold.]

The event is open to the public at regular Hall of Fame admission prices: $16.99 for adults; $13.99 for seniors (ages 65 and above); $11.99 for ages 5-15; and free for children 4 and under.

And this great news: Thanks to the generosity of Hall of Fame President John Doleva, we are pleased to announce that half of the day’s Hall proceeds will go to our beneficiary, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

So please join us, and bring a friend, and help to share our message of endless gratitude. As always …

Every shot made shall serve as a reminder of the reverence
due those who have honored us with their selfless service to this country.
Every dollar raised shall serve to benefit those who now suffer for that sacrifice. 
To all Veterans, though it will never be enough, this is our solemn thank you.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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August 12: Enshrinement

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 …

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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:

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.”

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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