Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Year Shaq Came For Christmas

We have been loyal Orlando Magic fans since the franchise began back in the early 80s.  In fact, when the O-rena was first built we lived practically across the street!  Since they were of no interest their first few years of existence we were able to go a few games quite inexpensively.

A lower-level seat that would probably go for about $400 now cost us $20 in their first year.  The first game we attended we sat about 10 rows up from the floor and watched Nick Anderson, Terry "The Catman" Catledge and Dennis "3D" Scott work their "magic".  In fact our first game was attended by Mr. T, Tita, Orlando Grandma, The Writer and me.

We have been a basketball family from the get-go.  The Writer started very young and The Maven, who always wanted to be just like her brother was not far behind.

The Writer around spring of 1989. 

The Maven at about 6 months in 1989 in her dad's Magic cap.

We installed a basketball hoop in the driveway, it was a busy place many afternoons filling up with neighborhood kids

The Maven showing off her moves in 1994

    Fancy footwork 1994

Not quite sure who this crazy character is, but he's showing off his dunking skills on a low rim. Impwessive!
All I know is that it became a family interest that even penetrated Grandpa Hughes' non-athletic psyche.

When the Magic drafted Shaq it wasn't just our family that caught basketball fever, but the whole city went crazy.  Shaq jerseys were seen everywhere, including on one Writer in our family.  Junior Magic basketball leagues were formed and both The Maven and The Writer played on teams.  In fact, The Maven was on the first all-girl team in the league and eventually both Mr. Tennis and The Writer coached her team to several winning seasons over the years.

The Mustangs 2000

Yep, our kids wore their basketball outfits everywhere.

Greeting Grandma Hughes during a visit to Orlando

Fifth Grade School Picture

But the biggest thrill our family got was the year Shaq came to our house for Christmas.  He just appeared in our family room wearing a festive Santa hat and a whistle around his neck.  He was a huge presence, but fortunately very quiet.

Orlando Grandma was a terrible flirt, but Shaq didn't seem to mind.

As we all know, most good things must come to an end and the Shaq-love died the day he dumped the Magic.  If a city could be collectively bitter, Orlando was.  Particularily bitter was a certain young fan in our household.  Shaq's cardboard twin was banished to the attic and remains there to this day.  But the Magic love is still here and some of it even moved out to LA with The Writer where he cheered them on against the LA Lakers.

But, in time, grudges fade (except during playoffs) and when Mr. Tennis and I ran into Shaq when we were joining the new 24 Hr Fitness gym a couple of months ago, we smiled and chatted politely.  Didn't even make any quips about him trying to win a ring with LeBron, or how's he going to feel losing this year to Orlando.  No, we acted like starstruck fans.  And afterwards, Mr. Tennis couldn't help telling everyone that HE has the SAME Superman boxers that Shaq was wearing that day at the gym.

THE boxers.  Mr. T's, not the ones Shaq was wearing.  We were too embarrassed to ask for a picture with the big man.

Maybe one day I'll release cardboard Shaq from his attic, but probably not any time soon because it's basketball season and some grudges just can't help coming back.


Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

All your pictures made me smile!

Alan said...

Who knew basketball would play such a central role in our lives. I think back to all those games we went to in Gainesville before we were married and all of Zach and Wendy's games not to mention how we still follow the Magic and I realize that a lot of good memories are associated with this game.