It's been almost 28 years since the first day we met. 28 years since I saw you in the back of our garage. 28 years since my parents introduced us.
If someone would have told me then, what would become of us, I'm not sure I wold have believed them. I barely remembered your name.
Then I started seeing you around the neighborhood and watching you on television. I used to see you with guys down at the playground. But when my older brother started paying more attention to you, I started to wonder. Maybe you were different.
We hung out a few times. the more I got to know you, the more I liked you. And as life would have it, when I finally got really interested in you, when I was finally ready to get serious, you left me off the varsity. You told me I wasn't good enough.
I was crushed. I was hurt. I think I even cried.
Then I wanted you more than ever. So I practiced. I hustled. I worked on my game. Passing. Dribbling. Shooting. Thinking. I ran. I did sit-ups. I did push-ups. I did pull-ups. I lifted weights. I studied you. I began to fall in love and you noticed. At least that's what Coach Smith said.
At the time, I wasn't sure exactly what was going on. But now I know. Coach Smith was teaching me how to love you, how to listed to you, how to understand you, how to respect you and how to appreciate you. then it happened. That night, at the Louisiana Superdome, the final seconds of the championship game against Georgetown, you found me in the corner and we danced.
Since then, you've become so much more than just a ball to me. You've become more than just a court. More than just a hoop. More than just a pair of sneakers. more than just a game.
In some respects, you've become my life. My passion. My motivation. My inspiration.
You're my biggest fan and my harshest critic. You're my dearest friend and my strongest ally. You're my most challenging teacher and my most endearing student. you're my ultimate teammate and my toughest competitor. You're my passport around the world and my visa into the hearts of millions.
So much has changed since the first day we met, and to a large degree, i have you to thank. so if you haven"t heard me say it before, let me say it now for the world to hear. Thank you. Thank you, Basketball. Thank you for everything.
Thank you for all the players who came before me. Thank you for all the players who went into battle with me. Thank you for the championships and the rings. Thank you for the All-Star Games and the Playoffs. Thank you for the last shots, the buzzer-beaters, the hard fouls, the victories and the defeats. Thank you for making me earn my keep. Thank you for #23. Thank you for North Carolina and Chicago. Thank you for the air and the nickname. Thank you for the moves and the hang time. Thank you for the Slam-Dunk contest. Thank you for the will and the determination, the heart and the soul, the pride and the courage. Thank you for the competitive spirit and the competition to challenge it. Thank you for the failures and the setbacks, the blessings and the applause. Thank you for the triangle. Thank you for baseball and the Barons. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for the assistant coaches, the trainers and the physical therapists. Thank you for the announcers, the refs, the writers, the reporters, the broadcasters and the radio stations. Thank you for the Pistons and the Lakers, the Cavs and the Knicks, the Sixers and the Celtics. Thank you for Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Utah. Thank you for the Wizards. Thank you for the believers and the doubters. Thank you for Coach Smith, coach Loughery, Coach Albeck, Coach Collins and Coach Jackson. Thank you for the education and the experience. Thank you for teching me the game behind, beneath, within, above and around the game...the game game. Thank you for every fan who has ever called my name, put their hands together for me and my teammates, slapped me five or patted me on the back. Thank you for everything you've given my family. Thank you for the moon and the stars, and last but not least, thank you for Bugs and Mars.
I know I'm not the only one who loves you. I know you have loved many before me and will love many after me. But, I also know what we had was unique. It was special. So as our relationship changes yet again, as all relationships do, one thing is for sure.
I love you, Basketball. I love everything about you and I always will. My playing days in the NBA are definitely over, but our relationship will never end.
Much Love and Respect,