Over the years, people have asked me how a guy born and raised in S. FL became a Boston Celtics fan. Well, when I was around 7-8 years old, I remember watching my first NBA game on tv with my father. Not sure who the Celtics were playing, but I remember falling in love with the parquet floor in the old Boston Gardens. That day, the Celtics became my team. I have rooted for them through the good times and not so good times. I am glad Florida finally got two NBA teams, but I will always be a Celtics fan. My father passed away three years ago this week. If he was alive today, we would be talking about the Celtics run for their 18th Championship. Go Celtics!!! ~OC
I truly enjoyed the ESPN documentary The Last Dance, chronicling the career of the GOAT Michael Jordan. But without Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, there probably is no Michael Jordan or NBA. Magic and Bird saved the NBA. Let me explain.
Some of you are probably too young to remember, but once upon a time the NBA playoffs and finals were taped. That’s right, you had to avoid the news all day if you did not want to know the scores of the games. The NBA was coming off a drug scandal. Most people were just not interested in watching the NBA. Then March 26, 1979 happened. The NBA would never be the same.
On March 26, 1979, the Michigan State Spartans took on the Indiana State Sycamores for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Ervin “Magic” Johnson, the kid with the big smile vs. Larry “The Hick from French Lick” Bird. Most of America watched the drama play out from Salt Lake City, Utah. That night Magic’s Spartans got the best of Bird’s Sycamores. But that would not be the last time we would see these two compete against each other. That night in Utah would change the NBA forever.
Magic Johnson would be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird would be drafted by the Boston Celtics. Magic and Bird would turn around the two most storied franchises in the NBA. Most importantly, they brought the fans back to the NBA. No longer were the playoffs and finals on tape delay. Fans could not get enough of Magic, Bird and the NBA.
No doubt Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play in the NBA, but we must never forget that the kid with the infectious smile from Lansing, Michigan and the Hick from French Lick saved the NBA. ~OC
Last night, Laura and I had the honor of attending the first Inner City Innovators Gala to celebrate the young men who this amazing organization helps. It was also a time to celebrate one of my heroes Mr. Ricky Aiken. Let me tell you about my hero.
I met Ricky when he was about 14 or 15 years old. I was volunteering with a great organization Urban Youth Impact at the time. Ricky and I just hit it off. I think it was our mutual love for books and sports. You know God is real when he brings a Boston Celtics fan and a LA Lakers fan together. As happens in life, we lost contact for a brief period. When Ricky turned 18 we reconnected around his birthday. My wife had heard about Ricky and wanted to celebrate his birthday. Oh, did we celebrate. My wife had a blast taking Ricky shopping. I think Ricky might have been a little overwhelmed by Laura’s enthusiasm, but he indulged her. That day Ricky became Laura’s son. It is a relationship that has continued to grow throughout the years. Laura still loves celebrating Ricky’s birthday.
Back in 2015, one of Ricky’s friends was shot and killed. For Ricky that was the last straw. He could no longer sit around and watch his community be destroyed by gun violence. That is when Inner City Innovators was born. Ricky has become a leader in his community. A leader in his city. And I believe in time, a national leader. This from a young man labeled emotionally disabled by the educational system. How I wish the person who made that incorrect diagnosis could see Ricky now. To see the Man he has become. The Leader he has become. The Hope Dealer he has become.
I could go on and on about my godson and the man he has become. Laura and I are so proud of him. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves when we see all that Ricky has accomplished in life. We are thankful God has blessed us with a front row sit. I pray that one day, Ricky will write a book and share his amazing story with the world. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to check out Inner City Innovators at http://www.innercityinnovators.org.
Some of my favorites:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baseball: Johnny Bench
Basketball: Larry Bird
Football: Lee Roy Selmon & Derrick Brooks
Florida Gators: Al Horford, Danny Wuerffel & Tim Tebow
Coach: Tony Dungy
Brian’s Song (The Original)
12 Years a Slave
Remember the Titans
Facing the Giants
Any Jimmy Stewart Film
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
Harry Connick Jr.
Tenth Avenue North
Earth, Wind & Fire
Hall & Oates
America Story by Bob Dotson
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
Moment Make by Carlos Whittaker
Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson
Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson
Unscripted by Ernie Johnson, Jr.
Living Out Loud by Craig Sager
I’ll Push You by Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray
Breaking Cover by Michele Rigby Assad
Love Does by Bob Goff
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
Radical by David Platt
Transformed by Remi Adeleke
Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Drop the Stones by Carlos A. Rodríguez
Brave Surrender by Kim Walker-Smith
Comeback by Dave Dravecky
When You Can’t Comeback by Dave & Jan Dravecky
Quite Strength by Tony Dungy
Separate Peace by John Knowles
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Believe by Eric LeGrand
Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox
Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox
God & Football by Chad Gibbs
The Pact:Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt
Vulnerable by Raleigh Sadler
This Life I Live by Rory Feek
42 Faith by Ed Henry
The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores
Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
Long Run by Matt Long
Forty Thousand To One by Ben Petrick
The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose
When The Game Was Ours by Jackie MacMullan
Catch You Later by Johnny Bench
Love Thy Rival by Chad Gibbs
This is just a short list of my favorites. I could go on for days. ~OC