Crossover Chronicles is a relatively new blog, so we decided it was a good idea to introduce you to the crew. We’re doing that in a new feature called “Writer-Palooza.” For the next few days, we will feature one writer, introducing him to you via an original piece, his favorite basketball video, and a wildcard post on any topic that he wants.
Today we feature Brendan Bowers. You can find him on Twitter here.
I was eight years old when I first played organized basketball. Just old enough to run around the gym, wear a jersey, bounce a ball, but have no real idea what to do with it. Some parent of that little league team, after some game, I don’t quite remember who or when, walked up to me afterwards and said I looked like a young Bobby Hurley out there. I’m sure I didn’t, and I’m also sure that I had no idea who Bobby Hurley was when he first said it. It sounded like a compliment though, as far as I could tell, and that whole car ride home I couldn’t wait to find out who this Bobby Hurley guy was.
Turns out he was the point guard for Duke University. I wasn’t quite old enough to remember his freshman season there, but I watched each and every game I could from his sophomore year on. I loved everything about watching Bobby Hurley play basketball. Every time I bounced a ball outside in my driveway, I pretended I was Bobby Hurley. I wore a Duke hat around my neighborhood, and in the summer time I would wear my number 11 jersey to the park. Every time Duke won, in my little world, Bobby Hurley was the reason why. For me growing up, Bobby Hurley was Ted Williams, Micky Mantle, Micheal Jordan, Joe Montana, Bo Jackson, and Shaquille O’Neal all rolled into one.
I was sitting there watching from my couch a few years later, now maybe twelve or so, wearing that Duke hat on the June day he was drafted into the NBA. Growing up fifteen minutes east of Cleveland, Ohio, nine hours away from Jersey City, and even more than that away from Durham, North Carolina, I was the only one of my friends who rooted for Bobby Hurley. Besides my brother that is. When he got drafted 7th overall, I told my friends that five teams made a mistake. I was getting a little older, and I tried to be fair about it, Chris Webber was pretty good. I’d have taken my chances with Hurley over anybody though.
Bobby Hurley could’ve been an NBA All Star too. He could’ve been a Hall of Famer. Don’t act like you know he wouldn’t have been. His opportunity was cut short tragically by a drunk driver who crashed into Hurley’s car on his way home from a game during his rookie season. He probably shouldn’t have ever been able to get himself back onto an NBA court from there, maybe shouldn’t have walked, and easily could’ve died. But he did come back, and he’d play again in the NBA. The injuries limited the athletic abilities that made him the best point guard in the nation only a season ago however, and he’d never be the same as a player again after that. Not that he ever spent any time reminding anybody about any of that though. Things happen in life, and you move on.
About a decade and a half later, my Dad called me at work one day. “See who Wagner College just hired as their new coach?” he asked. I hadn’t. “Bobby Hurley, your guy, back in the game. You should interview him about it,” he said. After years away from basketball, outside of working with kids as a trainer and watching his brother and Dad’s team play in New Jersey, Bobby Hurley wasn’t really involved in the game anymore. Until now, coaching alongside his brother Danny, at Wagner College. Before I was even off the phone with my Dad, I was already googling the number for the Wagner College Athletic Department.
I called later that afternoon, and the next evening I saw a voicemail on my cell phone. I had been out for a run down the street, two miles really but I told myself it was three. It was a long time since I was that ten year old kid dribbling that basketball in the park for hours on end. When I played the message it just said, “Brendan, this is Bobby Hurley. Give me a call on my cell whenever you get a chance, no problem on that interview”. I was an adult now, I had interviewed twenty or so NBA players by this point, and I’d met even more than that. But this was Bobby Hurley. This was my guy. I saved that voicemail for months.
After a conversation with myself about how it’d be in my best interest to sound as casual and cool as possible when I called back, I decided against telling him how much he meant to me as a kid. I thought it’d be kind of awkward, and I really didn’t think that’d be fair to the guy. Plus I wasn’t totally sure where I’d end up going with all that had I opened that door. I’d just stick to the script I decided. Try to act as cool as possible. Or at least as cool as a guy like me is capable of.
I called back and talked to Bobby Hurley for about a half hour. It was the most enjoyable basketball conversation I’d ever had in my life. I played it as cool as I could, and at the end I said simply, “It was joy to watch you compete throughout your career”. He said thanks, he appreciated that, and I published the interview I did with my childhood basketball hero that next day. If I had said something more to him then though, I’d have told him that I fell in love with the game of basketball because of the way he played it. That if it wasn’t for him, I wonder how many of the relationships with so many great people that I’ve made through this game in my own life might maybe never have even happened.
So when I saw over the weekend that Bobby Hurley’s name was included on ESPN’s ranking of the Top-35 McDonald’s All American’s of All Time, just ahead of Chris Paul, Chris Mullin, and Amar’e Stoudemire, I thought that sounded about right. Even though for me, he’ll always be number one.