By Jason Riley
I knew exactly what I wanted when I walked in.
The little shop in urban Kansas City wasn’t somewhere I had ever bothered to visit before. It was one of those places where balding, 55-year old men came to worship athletes they had once hoped (and likely pretended) to be.
“I’ll never forget how I felt when George Brett came storming out of the dugout.”
Those are the kind of things you would hear in a place like that. The store was exclusively built by (and for) people who felt some sort of emotional connection to a person they had never met who was involved in a moment they had nothing to do with. Its very existence was both completely ridiculous and totally rational at the same time.
I exhaustively searched through every cluttered aisle, but all I found were new ways to justify my clear psychological deficiencies.
As I walked back to my car, I was surprised at how angry I was about the whole thing. To be reasonable, it wasn’t a Rasheed Wallace kind of anger, but more of a 13-year old girl who missed the Justin Beiber concert kind of anger. I felt like whining about it, so I called my sister, the only person in my world who would understand.
“Kansas City sucks! Of course they wouldn’t have it. … But of course they would have a signed calendar of the ’02 Royals. Who the hell would buy that? They lost 100 games for the 100th time in the last 100 years.”
Rachel tolerated a solid ten minutes of dull, one-sided conversation before making up an excuse to hang up the phone. During my 45-minute drive home, I was angry that I was angry. It forced me to think about all the reasons owning this sentimental item even mattered. Where my mind went next surprised me.
I could hear my girlfriend telling me, “It’s just a game, Jason. It doesn’t really matter.”
I could remember the condescending dance my friend did when his beloved Spurs wiped the floor with the Lakers in ’03.
I thought about my two buddies from Dallas who didn’t even like the NBA, but would text me after every Lakers loss just to rub it in my face.
I pictured that self-important smirk wiped across my co-workers face when he knew I was upset about the Lakers losing.
I even recalled that day back in Jr. High when I was given the nickname AIDS because everyone knew how much I loved Magic Johnson.
It may have taken only 45 total seconds, but in those few moments, I realized that part of my identity was wrapped up in being a Lakers fan. What happened to them on the court really did directly impact my own life.
When the Lakers won, it meant more than just the basketball-related implications of a victory. It meant no disparaging comments from my friends or girlfriend… no pompous smirk on my co-workers face… no text-messages from my buddies in Dallas… no asinine dances or reminders about the ’03 Spurs.
This was why I was at that store searching for a framed copy of this so desperately.
That shot represented one of the greatest moments in NBA history, but it was more than just a monumental victory for the Lakers.
For me, it represented a glimpse of hope that was realized. The impossible. The unexpected. But most importantly, the beautiful sound of victorious silence in my own personal life.
We all eventually grow out of this kind of thing, where our sports fan-hood becomes more of a footnote, than a full-blown chapter, in our lives.
But on that day, in that very moment of time, as the ball fell through the net and the hushed sound of shock filled the AT&T center, it was more than just a game played by men I didn’t know at an arena I had never been to.
And while I’ll never experience a personal connection to a sporting event like that again, I will never forget how 0.4 seconds in Derek Fisher’s life so radically impacted my own.