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Talk about your hoop dreams

Don Rogers

The NBA finals ended Thursday night with the San Antonio Spurs, as long expected, winning the championship. And at last basketball season is over!Thank God. I overdosed on the sport this year. Now I can switch off the television, re-introduce myself to the family, get some work done around the house, catch up with the real world.It was just too much fun this year. The two best teams in pro ball went the full seven games to settle things for the first time since 1994, when Robert Horry was hitting his clutch threes for the Houston Rockets and winning his first of six championships. He also won with the Lakers and now the Spurs.The Denver Nuggets shook off their early season slumber to finish the regular season stronger than anyone. George Karl got them running, maybe even more so than the stunning Phoenix Suns. If the uptempo game still hasn’t proven itself in the playoffs, at least its coming back into vogue during the regular season. The college game – especially March Madness – was great as always again this year, too. Nice to see North Carolina climb back to dominance. But I was really impressed with Michigan State’s run in the one-and-done NCAA tournament, best in sports.Before that, it was the Olympics. That was great hoops, even though the USA bumbled to a humbling bronze, which bothered me not one bit. Team ball trumped talent that doesn’t quite blend. The U.S. team’s struggles despite having the best players by far was actually great for the game. Failure teaches more than winning. Victory can only affirm lessons learned.I know this from my own rec league season, which ended mercifully in March this year. The previous two seasons my team ran the table in our league, earning our western Eagle County B champs T-shirts, yessir. This year, the table turned on us. We stepped up a league and joined another, our big fellas moved or couldn’t make the games, and we got run, game after game, in both leagues. Talk about humbling. But I know the frustration made me and my teammates better, even if not quite good enough this season. Between two teams and the usual noon ball pickup games, I was playing up to five times a week for awhile there. Playing through hamstring pulls, calf pulls, runner’s heel and the long, long recuperation from knee surgery over a year ago. The runner’s heel was the worst. No, I wasn’t going to stop. Are you kidding? And never mind that moment during that game in Vail when I looked around and realized I was at least a dozen years older than the next oldest player, and a quarter century older than the rest. There’s something that gets in the blood with this game. I was going to quit in May for a month. Only managed to stay away one day. But the body likes scaling back to three sessions a week. Even that runner’s heel seems to be calming down.Yep, this was a perfect storm year for hoops all around. The NHL was kind enough to not have a season, freeing the sports channels to run even more basketball. I’m so nutty about it I got excited when Altitude aired Fort Lewis and Metro State games. I gorged so much, though, I hope the hockey folks figure it out in time to have a next season. Please. Might save my marriage.Capping the whole thing was talking on the phone last week with the fellow who taught me the game in his driveway in South Pasadena, Calif., in fourth or fifth grade.Dan Snyder went on to be our high school league co-MVP, fighting tooth and nail in practice with a certain scrawny, scrappy little third guard he dubbed Hack Man. Dan remains the sharpest shooter I’ve ever been around, and I’ve played with some great shooters.A wrist injury ended a promising college career, but he’s done well in life, cashing out on stock options from a software start-up he joined and helped make bloom. I recently learned that he landed in Colorado a couple of years before we moved here. Small world. He helped coach this year’s 5A state champs, Heritage, which included his son Kevin. He’s on the Metro State coaching staff now. I fully expect Dan will be coaching the Nuggets one of these days. The guy’s mind was always as sharp as his shooting touch.And this week I started reading Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s memoir “Dreams from My Father,” which I have to tell you is excellent. But what struck me was reading about the Honolulu neighborhood where we both lived at the same time, and realizing we played ball on the same courts and gym at the University of Hawaii. Chances are pretty good that we played pickup together.That does it. It’s all too much. Enough! Back to snowboarding when the snow flies again, definitely. But not before I check out Dan Snyder’s court downstairs at his home in Littleton. He and Hack Man need to make their reacquaintance where it counts. I think 30 years apart is quite long enough. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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