I do not watch much basketball - of the major sports, it's, by far and away, the one I watch the least of (unless you count soccer). However, as a child growing up near Chicago in the midst of the dynastic years with Air Jordan, Pippen and crew, it was hard not to be swept up into that mania. One of my earliest sports memories is staying up late at night with my father to watch the Bulls take on the Jazz for the NBA title in 1997.
However, that was a long time ago. These days, I am only a casual fan, at best. Sure, I might leave a game on the TV for a few minutes to kill some time or absorb a quarter or two at the local sports bar when the conversation doesn't keep my attention. Overall though, they don't move the proverbial needle much this sports fan.
That said, there is now one player on the Bulls who has caught my attention in a big way.
On Friday, the Chicago Bulls held the introductory press conference for their returning prodigal son, Windy City native Dwyane Wade. Recently, he'd also been sighted at Wrigley for the Cubs/White Sox Crosstown Classic series. The former Marquette and Miami Heat star grew up on the South Side of Chicago and now finds himself playing for his hometown team for the first time. At 34, he's definitely not part of any youth movement, but he should be capable of providing veteran leadership and a legitimate scoring threat for a team caught in transition.
If you've been following my blog, you might remember that I work for a local public school district as a technology specialist. Over the summer, I was transferred over to a different building in the district and that school has one particularly notable alumnus:
Yup, I work in the same school where Dwyane Wade pounded the books, forged his childhood and played junior high hoops. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty neat.
Having such a noted celebrity come from your ranks is a pretty big deal for this school and they definitely haven't kept it quiet. Next to their stash of track & field (a team for which I'll be coaching this year) cheerleading and basketball trophies (which Dwyane likely played a part in earning), one can find a framed photograph with local kids and an autographed basketball, dating from his time in Miami:
It's important to remember where you came from, after all.
However, I feel compelled to mention that Dwyane definitely didn't have it easy as a kid, with his mother's constant battle with addiction often putting him into situations a child should ever have to endure. All the while, Wade was living with his father and siblings in a nearby town that was/is noted for it's "roughness." The best times of his formative years were likely spent honing his skills in the gymnasium just down the hallway from my office.
All that considered, he was able to rise above all of the strife and hardship that plagued those years and become a national superstar, one who has used his notoriety in a positive way. His philanthropic contributions to those in need are plentiful and show that he doesn't take his success for granted. In short, he provides an excellent example for the current students at this fine educational institution.
Now, he can continue doing so playing just 30 minutes from where he grew up.
Anyway, since I decided to start casually collecting as many cards of Chicago Bulls players from their all-time roster as possible (in the same vein as my Cubs, Bears and Blackhawks binders), this was the first Bull that I felt compelled to actually seek out a card for. Of course, he doesn't have anything depicting him in Chicago colors yet, but it feels criminal to this card-collector to work in his alma mater and not have even a single card of the guy.
Luckily, a random jaunt to one of my LCS locations provided a solution to this problem:
A large discount box of recent basketball releases provided this lovely placeholder card for just 25 cents. This shop was charging a premium on anything of the newly-returned local star, stuffing a few singles in their display case; but, I guess this base card slipped under their radar.
I have to say, that's a pretty sweet photo. Maybe I'll even have a chance to get it signed if Mr. Wade decides to make a goodwill trip to his former stomping grounds - you never know.
At any rate, I'll be paying a lot more attention to the NBA this year, probably whether I like it or not. I have a feeling the students are going to be pretty pumped up about the fact that a guy who once struggled to fit his books into one of the same lockers they cram junk into today is now playing for their hometown team. Attention will be paid.
While I was digging through that box at my LCS, I also came across a couple cards of other big additions made by the Bulls during their off season. I figured I might as well grab them while I was at it:
Rondo was another veteran free agent signing that Bulls hope will help boast their scoring power. Meanwhile, Lopez was acquired via trade, a very big trade - the same swap that saw Justin Holiday and longtime face of the franchise/perpetually injured Derrick Rose go to New York in exchange for Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant. Grant is another name that catches the attention of this 90's kid, seeing as Jerian is the nephew of Horace Grant, another one of those dynastic Bulls' star players.
The only D-Rose card I have is this lenticular Valentine...
So, I know Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown with his "Guys From Granite" mini-collection, but I'd like to pose this question to those of us on the blogosphere: are there any famous alumni that come from any of your alma maters or hometown? Does that intrigue you or are you more "meh" to the shared life characteristic? Do you collect their cards/memorabilia?
I don't think I'm going to dive head-first into collecting D-Wade; but it did feel like I needed to have at least one card, especially given my collecting habits.
Here's hoping that Wade, Rondo, Grant and crew can inject some life into the lately listless Bulls - always on the cusp on being good, but instead devolving into Rose vs. Butler or Rose getting hurt drama. We shall see.