Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dr. J. Loves Pancakes


I’ll remember Sunday, February 15, 2009 until the day my Alzheimer’s sets in. My brother-in-law, Brett invited me to join him and my two nephews for the NBA All Star Legends brunch at the Phoenix Convention Center. Brett explained that he had brought along in part for my basketball expertise. I came through while walking from the parking lot to the convention center, when I correctly identified the 6’ll former Denver Nugget, Danny Shayes. The thing is I darned near got hit by a one of the light rail trains in the identification process. The city just put the light rail system in and it’s scary. The trains come zipping along without warning – no bells, no horns, nothing. It’s just a matter of time before someone gets flattened. Somebody ought to write a letter.

Inside the convention room the superstars of my past were absolutely ubiquitous. There was Doctor J., Michael Cooper, Buck Williams, Truck Robinson, Magic Johnson, Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Bob Love, Mark Eaton, Clyde Drexler, Lafayette Leaver, Clyde Drexler, Jo Jo White, Alvin Adams, Dick Van Arsdale, Ricky Sobers, Eddie Johnson to name a few. There were dozens of faces I just could not put my finger on. The extra years and pounds made them impossible to identify. Pretty much anyone over six feet wearing a coat and tie was a former NBA player. Many of these men were personal boyhood idols. It was a transcendent experience, a time walk.

And the food wasn’t bad either – all the steak, eggs, breakfast burritos, fresh fruit and pancakes a guy could eat. Speaking of pancakes, My nephew Dylan almost got a picture with Doctor J. Dylan was standing in the buffet line when a tall sophisticated character leaned over his shoulder and said something like, “My word, it looks like they’re out of pancakes?”

My nephew turned and said, “The lady said she right back with some more pancakes.” Then he realized he was talking to Julius Erving, “Dr. J, oh my God! Can my brother take a picture of us?”

“Sure,” Dr. J said moving into pose. Dylan called for his brother to head with the camera.

Brady was rounding the corner with the camera when Dr J said, “It looks like they’ve got some pancakes over there. I’ve got to have some of those pancakes” smoothly peeling off Dylan and over to another buffet line.

So close, but no cigar. Apparently, Dr. J. really likes Pancakes.

And then there was the Kiki Vandeweghe fiasco. After the speeches and presentations had been made, Brett and I were wandering across the banquet hall trying to position ourselves for pictures. We were a couple of middle-aged kids giggling and socking each other in the arm, running alongside veterans like Mark Eaton and Bob Love, trying to catch them as they finished conversations.

“Who’s that?” Brett pointed to a 6’9 white guy who looked to be about fifty.

“I think that’s Kiki Vandeweghe.”

“OK, get over there. I’ll take the picture.”

“I don’t know…”

“Get over there.”

Feeling quite silly, I loped over.

“Excuse me, would it be alright if we took a picture.”

“Sure, no problem at all.”

What a nice guy.

As Brett was snapping away like some kind of New York fashion photographer, I looked up and said, “There’s no way you remember me, but I played against you high school.”

“Really?” he said, “Which school did you play for?”

“Hawthorne High.”

“OK, I remember playing Hawthorne.”

“And I think your dad brought a couple of my friends into the world.”


His expression changed. He looked down at me like I was out of my mind.

“Wasn’t your dad an OBGYN?”

“Uh, no.”

“You are Kiki Vandeweghe, aren’t you?”


What do you say in a situation like this?

“Well, who are you?”

“I’m Steve Hawes.”

“Oh, err… I bet you get that a lot – I mean people confusing you with Kiki Vandeweghe.”

“No, I can’t say they have. Somebody thought I was Randy Johnson once.”

I noticed Brett out of the corner of my eye; he was on the floor laughing.

“Well, this is all pretty embarrassing. Thank you for the picture.”

The big man shook his head.

“You know the funny thing is we did play against Hawthorne High School.”

“Hawthorne, California?”

“No, Idaho. Weird, huh?”


That was awkward. But what a nice guy. I googled Steve Hawes; he had a respectable career with Atlanta and Seattle. I should point out that he definitely looks a lot more like Kiki Vandeweghe than Randy Johnson.

Note: I would have posted all of the incredible pictures it took if I weren't a technological moron. You see, I borrowed my daughter's digital camera and most of the pictures I thought I took turned out to be video footage of the feet of some of the greatest basketball players of all time. You thought I was kidding about my war with technology didn't you?