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Here’s the story, and it’s an interesting one.
In 1977, I was in high school in Berlin, Germany, and one of my high school teammates was selected to join the 1977 USA Albert Schweitzer Tournament team. There is a tournament every other year, and the 1977 team brought McDonald’s All-Americans including Darnell Valentine, Eddie Johnson, Jeff Lamp – and one Earvin Johnson. (Ths US won the tournament that year, as they usually do.) At the same time, we had very limited NBA television exposure, with the one channel we had – Armed Forces Television – and I used to see the Lakers play, since Kareem was a big star. Two years later, Magic went to the Lakers, and I started really following the team. That was 1979. I was 16.
I have been a HUGE Lakers fan since that summer. How big? I have every box score, from every game, for the past 32 seasons. I have about 2000 Lakers games on DVD since the 1980 Finals. I have a collection of personally autographed items that includes a basketball signed by Magic, Kareem, Nixon, Wilkes, Rambis, Cooper, Scott & Worthy. I have a binder of hand-signed 8X10 photos that includes signatures of over 100 Lakers, including players back to Mikan, Mikkelsen, Kundla, and so forth. The only Hall Of Fame player I don’t have in a photo (they’re all in Lakers uniforms) is Adrian Dantley, who was originally drafted by LA, and later selected to the Hall Of Fame, mostly for his career with the Pistons. Then there are the books, the letters from former players, basketball cards, and so forth. I make a binder of each season, complete with articles, photos, and all sorts of neat memorabilia. It’s a lot of work, and I’m sure there is a medical condition for my compulsion, but I love it, and have a lot of fun. Watching old games, which I don’t really have a lot of time for, really brings back the memories.
Last November, my family and I went to LA on vacation, and I was finally able to see the Lakers play at home – for the first time ever. I had seen them in Boston, Hartford, Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey… but never at The Forum or Staples. But in November, we saw the Lakers play against Golden State, and Chicago, in great seats that belonged to a friend who covers the team professionally.
But back to the tattoo…
In the summer of 2002, I was in New York City, visiting a friend of mine, and she and I had been talking about getting tattoos. I knew if I ever got one, it would be the Lakers logo. I brought a book that had the design with me, and she and I went to a big tattoo place on Canal Street in lower Manhattan. I went in and asked if someone could put that design on me. The first “artist” told me no, he didn’t have a good feeling about it. He passed me to a second man, who said no, it was a computer-generated design, and they were difficult. But there was a third guy in there who said it wouldn’t be a problem, and off we went. My friend never ended up getting a tattoo, but at age almost-40, I got my logo. It’s not as intricate as yours – just the regular logo, but there is room for Championship Title years, which I plan to add after they eclipse the Celtics’ title totals.
I’ll get you a photo as soon as I can – I had both knees replaced three weeks ago today, and I’m still trying to get around – my wife is traveling at the moment, but when she returns on Saturday, I’ll email you a photo. It was funny, my parents (who are both ANCIENT) thought I was crazy, but they’re getting used to the tattoo. I had it re-inked last summer, as it had faded just a little.
I’m enclosing a photo of me with the tattoo, and my son, with a stick-on, from about 4 years ago. Don’t use this one – I’ll send you another photo of just the tattoo by itself!
Somewhere along the way, we discover that the journey home is more significant than the destination, and that the people we meet along the way will be the traveling companions of our memories forever.