My 19th birthday was last week. Birthdays are supposed to be a joyous occasion, of course, because it’s a celebration of your life but mine made me reflect on the near two decades I’ve been on this planet. I realized that I have to eventually make the transition from being reliant on my parents to stepping into the world alone. While every person has to go through the process in their life, it’s uncertain if my emotional self is ready for that because a part of me still wants to be that 7-year-old kid who played on the Nerf hoop in his room while watching Ray Allen and the Bucks.
Growing up in a small town in Central Wisconsin, I really didn’t have much to do during those cold winter months after the NFL season other than watch those Bucks teams on FSN or control them on an NBA Live video game. Now in both aspects, Ray Allen was the absolute king in my eyes because of how easily I learned to fall in love with that beautiful stroke which eventually led to him being the best three-point shooter in NBA history. Sure, there were fun players like Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell, but Allen was the Buck to catch my eye as a young kid.
The 2000-01 season coincided with my time in first grade at Medford Area Elementary School which is still a fond memory nearly 13 years later. I was an extremely shy kid growing up (still kind of am) so I spent a lot of time away from my classmates which was rough for my young mind because I was a loner during recess. That alone time allowed me to try to copy that sweet stroke of Ray Allen with one of those kid sized basketballs you found at a K-Mart or Wal-Mart. While out there, I would try to act like I was a member of the Bucks in the last moments of Game 7 of the NBA Finals where I would try (and routinely fail) to hit a shot at the buzzer.
Those little and otherwise mundane moments are still stuck in my mind to this day if only because it ultimately led to sadness and disappointment in the spring during the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. That series was probably my first heartbreaking sports moment because my adolescent mind thought that this team with Robinson, Cassell and Allen could take on any team in the world. That came crashing down right in front of me when Iverson and Sixers defeated Milwaukee in a rough series. Despite that loss, Ray Allen was absolutely electric in the series and honestly made me really appreciate how beautiful the game of basketball actually was.
The summer quickly followed the series which was painful because this was the time when the Milwaukee Brewers were historically awful and the Packers will an exciting team but Brett Favre was going to be typical Brett Favre. During that period of time before my second grade year, I would play on my gravel driveway against my older brother and regularly get my butt handed to me because he was my elder by seven years.
The warmth and long days of summer quickly turned into autumn as I moved on back to school to start second grade. This was in the fall of 2001 so the tragedies of 9/11 stunned my young mind even when I was thousands of miles away from the actual occurrence. I was left in a state of shock and fear in the weeks following those events until I was able to put it behind me when I knew I was able to see my favorite player back in action with the Bucks.
The disappointment and sadness I faced during those 2001 Eastern Conference Finals continued into the ’01-’02 season as the Bucks were slated as a team that could contend for the NBA title only to just collapse into medocrity finishing with a 41-41 record. That season is still a bitter one in my mind because that team was my first taste of success with a Wisconsin sports team (besides Ron Dayne’s Badgers, and it slipped through my fingers.
The following years for me and my Bucks fandom felt like a huge blur because there wasn’t a player that I could grasp onto and cherish like I did with Allen. Watching him flourish as a player on those below-average Sonic teams and finally winning the title with Boston was painful.
As a shy kid who really didn’t interact with many people, sports were my way to get away from the world but my heart kept on breaking as the years passed by. Seeing my childhood idol’s career go by from a distance felt like a shot to my gut after watching mediocre Bucks teams crumble each and every season. I would get a small taste of seeing a special kind of player like Michael Redd or Andrew Bogut, but even then, injuries would take them away before I had an opportunity to appreciate them.
I now sit here in the middle of the night with the only light coming from the screen of this laptop with thoughts rolling in my brain. The mood is bittersweet in the core of my mind because I have an opportunity to watch Allen come back to Milwaukee as a member of a stacked Heat team but it’s still not the same. He’s no longer that baby faced 24-year-old who was an electric talent, but now he’s a 37-year-old role player in the twilight of his career. Before you know it, he’ll be hanging up his sneakers and I’ll probably be reminiscing yet again like I am tonight.
Perhaps it’s time for me to focus my attention on the new crop of guys like LARRY SANDERS or John Henson, but seeing Allen shooting that beautiful three will always take me back. My days as a child are now over. I move onto life as an adult who’s afraid of what his future will bring, but I know it’s time for me to take on a new chapter of my life just like my childhood hero did.