God bless you.
Attending Game 5 of the NBA Finals Sunday night in Los Angeles was a relative paradise because it was like old times without having to work and sweat deadlines and it was enjoyed, for the first time, with my wife Joyce as we were special guests of the NBA and the Lakers, who won 103-98 and now trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven series which returns to Boston for sixth and, if necessary, seventh game.
My wife accompanied me for two reasons. First, she's very sensitive about my health issues and wanted to be by my side, instead of 1,735 miles away, in case something went wrong. Second, she loves California, especially Los Angeles, where we have enjoyed some of our best vacations..
We got the star treatment that started with fifth-row seats behind courtside. This enabled my wife to gleefully see the stellar likes of Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Sean (formerly alias "Puff Daddy") Combs, Damon Wayans and others. But the real thrills came from my fellow veteran journalists like John Jackson, Sam Smith, Michael Wilbon, Bill Walton, David Aldridge, Stephen A. Smith, Howard Beck, Marc Spears, Ailene Voisin, Helene Elliott, Ric Bucher, Brad Townsend and others who greeted me with smiling hugs as I introduced them to my wife.
"It's nice to see people still remember a dinosaur like me," I said.
"You're no dinosaur," Aldridge said to my ego's delight. "You're an icon."
In April, when doctors gave me the dire diagnosis that I had brain cancer, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure, I started making a list of things I definitely wanted to do with my wife just in case I didn't survive the summer. They included a trip to one NBA Finals, which I had covered exclusively for some 27 years for the Sun-Times, a trip back home to Kansas City so that I could take my wife to see her aging mother, and the celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary, which we already had planned last year to do in Hawaii.
"Oh don't worry," NBA veteran chief publicist Brian McIntyre told me. "You'll be seeing many more NBA Finals and we can always find you a ticket."
I am a pioneer in the diversity aspect of NBA newspaper coverage. I've not only covered the NBA for 40 years as an Ebony magazine sports editor and as a Sun-Times reporter, but the late Larry Whiteside, David Dupree and I were to the first black beat writers to cover the NBA for major American newspapers.
I also integrated the news staffs of the Kansas City Star, the Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis News before the become the first black to work fulltime for the Sun-Times as a sports columnist and reporter. Consequently, the National Association of Black Journalists have chosen to honor me in July by presently to me its first Larry Whiteside Award when it holds its annual convention here in Chicago.
In my 35 years as a Sun-Times sports reporters, I have covered more championships on my beats
than any other staff beat writer. While I covered them, the Bulls won six NBA championships, the
Sting won two North American Soccer League titles, the Rush one Arena Football League crown and the
Wolves one American Hockey League crown. Teams I covered also won close to 30 division titles,
advanced to the playoffs some 50 times and won close to 400 playoff games.
I first started covering the Bulls in 1972 when Dick Motta was coach and the teams revolved around
stars like Bob Love, Chet Walker, Jerry Sloan, North Van Lier, Tom Boerwinkle, Bobby Weiss and
Clifford Ray. But my biggest honors came from covering the Bulls championship dynasty, where Michael
Jordan, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson led the Bulls to win six championships in eight years.
In their respective championship runs, Owner Lee Stern's Sting was powered by coach Willy Roy and
striker Karl-Heinz Granitza, part-owner Mike Ditka's Rush followed the leads of coach Mike Hohensee,
star receiver Bobby Sippio and quarterback Matt D'Orazio and owner Don Levin's Wolves revolved
around coach John Anderson, star goalscorers Jason Krog, Darren Haydar and Brett Sterling and goalie
The Rush got off to a great start this season clinching its eighth straight playoff appearance,
its fourth Central Division title even tied briefly for the league's best record four weeks ago. It still
could rally to win its second championship in three years. But a plethora of injuries has sent the team
into a tailspin where iot has lost three of its last four games.
Here's praying that my healing results in me not only seeing and enjoying a meaningful
retirement with a couple of years, but also to enjoy seeing many other Chicago sports championships as
a healthy spectator.
God bless you.