When my friend Chris Johnson asked Brooks to compare the memory of my game to Durant’s, Brooks didn’t hesitate: “A lot of similarities — other than Kevin does like to play defense.”
We all busted up laughing.
If I’m honest, I think I almost felt sorry for Scotty when he went on to put up numbers and star at UC Irvine the next two years. Unlike most of us who accepted our station in the game and came to terms with how good we weren’t, excelling at the next level seemed like a tease for a guy who was going to have his heart broken just a rung below the embedded childhood fantasy.
Any player who worked his game and dreamed his dream knows the death of an athletic career to be a lasting, numbing hurt. The more rungs climbed past grade school, the longer the mourning period.
The only comfort for those of us who knew early we weren’t tall enough, fast enough or skilled enough? At least fate gave us a head start so we could earn our keep elsewhere; it told us to let go of that unrealistic hope.
Brooks, though, wouldn’t listen to that voice. That sawed-off point guard kept motoring up and down the floor nearly as fast as Jason Kidd, pressuring opposing point guards, being the perfect teammate. And now, as Brooks said, “I can’t believe I’m coaching some of the greatest players in the world. Sometimes, I think back to Manteca or Delta College and think, ‘How did that happen?’ I’ve just been blessed. My wife and two children and I have really been blessed. “
It’s almost surreal to think the same little dude who darted around that gym 27 years ago played 10 years in the NBA and now stands on the precipice of coaching in the NBA Finals.
Seeing Scott Brooks still want it more than all of us makes an old ballplayer want to lace up his sneaks, shoot a few jumpers and stop mourning the game he never had. Maybe the dream never does die. Maybe we can all live vicariously through a good guy who reached, grabbed and never let go of his own.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.