I used to carry around this little black notebook with me everywhere I went. It didn’t have a name as a kid, but as I got older and I had to replace it – it became My Hope Book. In it, I would write down all my dreams and aspirations. I would jot down notes that eventually became full-blown ideas that I’ve shared with the world. Most importantly, in my hope book I had a bucket list. A list of goals that no matter what curveballs life threw at me, I would step up to the plate and knock them out of the park. Watching a game at Staples as a resident of Los Angeles was the last original item on that bucket list. I remember that shit like it was yesterday, I wrote it down in the bottom right corner of the last page. As a kid, that’s as far as my mind could take me.
April 8, 2018 – I was able to check off that final box as I made my way to Staples Center to watch the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Utah Jazz.
It’s not very often that I take a deep breath and utter the words, “I did it.” Sunday, as I was sipping whiskey on the bar that’s directly under the Staples Center sign was one of those special moments. I soaked in the beautiful 75 degree sun and gazed at LA Live plaza while I waited for the game to tip-off. I could see Star Plaza and the new Elgin Baylor statue perfectly from where I was at. Star Plaza is a little area in front of Staples Center where statues of some of the greatest athletes in Los Angeles history are. Athletes like Oscar De La Hoya, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, Jerry West, and Shaq are forever immortalized in the city they brought so much joy to.
I felt regal and important standing up there. I could feel the history of the venue flowing through my veins, or that may have been the whiskey, we’ll never know. Seriously though, I’ve watched from the outside looking in for almost two decades. I used to have to drive from Austin to either San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas if I wanted to watch the Lakers play live. My whole life I was rooting for the away team, and even though Laker fans travel in packs, it’s not the same.
The 16 championship banners hanging from the rafter’s glisten like the sun, they bring a certain aura to the venue – it’s something I have yet to feel in any other NBA arena. The retired Laker jerseys on the wall could take on any others franchise retired jerseys in a pickup game, do not @ me. Chamberlain, Magic, West, Shaq, Kareem, and let’s not forget Kobe’s 8 & 24. You know how sometimes you’re so excited about something and you over hype things in your head? And then when the time comes it’s not as dope as you thought it would be? Yeah, that wasn’t the case at all with this. The whole experience somehow exceeded my expectations.
I made my way to my seats right as the opening introductions were set to start. Usually at this time I’d be sitting quietly in my seat watching the video graphics trying not to make a noise. Why you ask? I was always scared of getting jumped for talking shit by the home teams fans. I can’t tell you how many times people said something slick as I walked by trying to get into my seat, imagine what they would have done if I started talking shit before the game started? Naw son, like I always say, “Keep that same energy.” My hood senses always told me to keep that energy at a minimum, but not today. I was straight wildin’, and even though Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma were already all shut down for the season – I showed enough love to Julius Randle to make up for them not suiting up.
Next thing I know the ball gets tipped off, and I can’t remember the next quarter or so of game time. I was watching Donovan Mitchell give our defense the business, but my mind was somewhere else. I was thinking about what happens next? What do I aim for now? What mountain do I want to climb first? Everything you’ve ever asked for is right here; what you gonna do with it? As the Urban Philosopher Logic says, “While my hometown screaming you the chosen one, tellin’ myself don’t choke, don’t be the frozen one.”
I carry around a little black notebook now similar to the one I used to have as a kid. In it I have notes for work, stupid ideas that may pop into my head, podcast prep, you name it, it’s in there. I was waiting for that game to start writing down a new list of goals. Dreams that are so wild that my mom may look at me and say, “You’re not superman, you know?” But, that’s what those goals I jotted down in my hope book felt like to me as a kid – impossible. I knew I could do anything I set my mind to, but I also knew the chances of any of my crazy ideas coming to fruition were also pretty slim. That’s what kept me working, though. The thought of not living up to my full potential is what scares me the most in this life. What does Eminem say, “You only get one shot, do not miss you chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
I‘ve come to learn that I can get in my head entirely too much sometimes. Many people have told me that the only thing that can stop me is myself. I know I tend to get in my own way, but I’m learning how to side-step myself to get to the end goal. I have a bad habit of thinking about the future entirely too much and not enjoying the fruits of my labor. I feel if I change that about myself I’ll end up complacent. I know deep down that’s what keeps the fire in my belly burning like Drake’s pen when he wrote Nice For What.
So, I sat there and thought long and hard about what wild goals I’d pen out in my hope book next. I remember looking up at the clock and there were about 10 minutes left to go before the half. I looked over at my girlfriend Leslie and smiled, I do that a lot when I look at her. We started planning when we’d get up to get our second round of drinks, yeah she’s cool like that. It was then that my mind started to stitch the pieces of the puzzle together, it’s crazy how our ladies comfort us enough to let our minds work properly. Women are such magical beings.
I thought about becoming a homeowner in Long Beach on the Pacific Ocean, if you’ve ever been out to the city I call home now, you’ll quickly see why my head went straight there. I know Austin will forever be home, but I want to keep this chapter of my life here. It costs me an arm and a leg now to live two miles from the Pacific, buying a home by the water will likely take my remaining two limbs, but I’m alright with that.
I thought about trying to take my talents to The Ringer. They’re based in LA and I would get the chance to learn and grow under a legend like CEO Bill Simmons. Their roster is stacked like an All-Star team, and I feel at this point my pen game is serious enough to compete with the best. That’s why I’m here, I don’t shy away from competition, I thrive off of it. I want to be able to pick the brain of Shea Serrano, Jason Concepcion and Sean Fennessey on the daily and figure out how to become the best writer I can be. I’m trying to throw “Staff writer @Ringer” in the Twitter bio. I grew up idolizing guys like Stuart Scott, Scott Van Pelt, Robert Flores, and Rich Eisen so of course I dreamed of one day working at ESPN. I don’t feel that way anymore, I feel my weirdo style of expression would be better suited at a site like The Ringer.
I feel like I closed a chapter in my life that needed to be shut. The past is the past. Everything from here on out is a fresh start, I can’t live off my previous accomplishments forever. It’s all “what have you done for me lately” from here on out. Straight up, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s crazy how basketball, a game I‘ve loved since I was a child, continues to mark mile stones in my life. Man, I love this game.