The Ultimate Sports Treasure I Own

by on March 7th, 2015
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It was an event that I had looked forward to for some time. The NBA All Star game was coming to Chicago.
It was February 1988 and I was 25 years. And although I lived in Chicago, my team of choice wasn’t the Chicago Bulls, it was the Boston Celtics. You see, I may have lived in the Chicago area since 1974 but my impressionable years were spent in the Boston area when the Celtics ruled the NBA.
I remember the playoffs and championships the Celtics of the 70’s played, with John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Paul Silas being on tape delay. My father would say ‘ Do not watch the news on television and when I get home from work (his 2nd job) we will watch the game like it were just starting.’ We were diehard fans.
The 1980’s also proved to be exciting with the Celtics, what with the likes of Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson. More playoffs! More championships!

So when the NBA All Star Weekend came to town and it became known that the players were staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown, I just had to go get some Celtic autographs for my Dad and say hello.
I headed to the Hyatt that Friday night. Once there, I stood next to a boy about 13 with a notebook who was a Lakers fan collecting autographs. I obviously had hit a sore spot when I asked if he had seen any Celtic players. He looked around, pointed straight ahead and said ‘There’s one of your precious Celtics.’ For those folks who are not that knowledgeable about basketball or who just don’t follow the sport, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics were arch rivals. He nudged me right towards Dennis Johnson, ‘DJ’ as he was more commonly called.

As I found out he wasn’t playing in the All Star game that year but was with some of the other guys on the team. He liked that I was from Boston, living in Chicago and still loving the Celtics. We were interrupted by others wanting his attention but he would politely pause to talk with them and come back to our conversation.

After talking and laughing awhile, he asked me what I was doing Saturday. I told him I’d be watching the NBA Allstar Saturday game on television with my family. He said ‘Wait here.’ and I did. He came back with two 10th row seats to the Allstar Saturday! He said he had to go out of town to attend to some business but was happy to give them to me since he had enjoyed our talk so much. That was my 1st time meeting him. We stayed in touch over the years and my family got tickets to the Boston/Chicago games and of course, as might have been expected,I had gotten his autograph.

I had spoken to him on the Tuesday prior to his passing. I could not believe the news when I had heard Dennis Johnson had died. I was heartbroken. I had lost a friend who would call to chat about CSI Miami or the practice he had just had or how much he missed his family.
My autograph and ticket stubs are great. But the ultimate sports treasure that I own, are my memories of a wonderful man who I could truly say was my friend.

image courtesy of the yahoo! public image library


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