Meeting your Favorite Player (my Story)
By David Oby III aka CavFanatic21
There may not be too many people who can say they have met their favorite athlete sometime in their lifetime. Some can say they met a player, which then made them their favorite player. However, this was different for me. Many members may know, my favorite athlete is JJ Hickson, of the Sacramento Kings. Of course, he used to be on the Cleveland Cavaliers (But that’s an entirely different story). I have actually met him four times over the last year, and hope to meet him more. I can tell a simple story of how I have gone to a signing of him at a local auto show, or got his autograph prior to a game (pretty easy to do with him). But I will tell a story that is quite a bit more unique, that I know nobody else has ever experienced in their lifetime.
Back during the 2009-10 NBA Season, I was given the opportunity to go to a game in Philadelphia between the 76ers and Cavaliers. I was thrilled just to be able to go to a game in another arena, but was also able to sit courtside….right next to the Cavaliers bench (and to Will Smith’s seats – who unfortunately wasn’t there). I arrived at shoot around, and was still amazed at this opportunity. At this time, I had never tried to get IP Autographs, let alone did I know about them, really. I was mostly there for the game itself. I was amazed that I was able to be within just a few feet of maybe the best player currently playing in the NBA – LeBron James. Thankfully, for both mine and his sake, this was before the “Decision”.
Once the game started, I looked to my right and realized I was sitting next to Sebastian Telfair, another one of my favorite Cavaliers. We were actually able to have a conversation as well about his injury (hence why he was sitting at the end of the bench). At another point in the game, Delonte West had been subbed out of the game. The entire team gave him high fives, and I figured “Why not try myself?”, and sure enough Delonte gave me a high-five . This would be enough to make me thrilled, but things got better. My seat was actually on the wooden court. There was just enough room between my feet and the baseline to fit two workers in charge of the players’ towels. At one point in the game I asked one of the towel boys if he would be able to get me a towel from a player. JJ Hickson had just gotten back on the bench and was given a towel. For the next five or six minutes, my eyes were glued on that towel. I asked the “towel boy” if he could get me THAT towel (it had been left on the bench while all the players came together for a huddle during a timeout). He didn’t really give me a clear answer. Later in the timeout, he went to clear out the towels, to send back into the locker room to be cleaned (I hope). As he grabbed the one Hickson had been using, he tossed it over to me. I was thrilled to say the least.
At this point, I was now focused on trying to get it signed. However, when I asked Hickson if he could sign, he said he could only sign before or after games. I was happy, but obviously wished I could have gotten it signed. Don’t worry this opportunity would present itself in the future (a year later).
A little less than a year later, when the Cavaliers were playing the 76ers in Philadelphia the next season, I was given the same opportunity. By this time, I had improved my in person autographing abilities, and was determined to get him to sign the towel. On my arrival to the arena, I was shocked to find out who I was sitting next to. I am sure that every Cavs fan would love to meet this man more than anyone else in the entire organization…. Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavs.
I was also able to meet Cavaliers GM Chris Grant, and a few Cavaliers legends such as Austin Carr and World B. Free. I felt it was extremely ironic I was just as excited about sitting with Dan Gilbert as I was being close to LeBron James a year earlier. If I could tell myself back in 2009 that I would rather sit by Dan Gilbert than LeBron James now, I may have slapped my future-self. I was able to talk to Dan for two of the four quarters of the game, which was worth the entire trip. As we said our goodbyes, he handed me and the people with me passes with the 76ers logo and a few other codes on it. We were confused at first, and he explained they were locker room passes. I had never felt so happy in years, knowing I would be able to meet players in the locker room. He told us that we could just follow the players right after the game as they exit into the tunnel. We did so, but couldn’t go into the locker room immediately (Coach Scott had to give his post game talk – and they had won, so it wasn’t as long as usual). He then came out of the locker room for an interview which he does at the end of every game. If you are not familiar, it would look like this on television (can’t find the video from that game unfortunately):
The point is, I could have yelled anything I possibly wanted and it would be heard by thousands in the Cleveland area. After this, I met with Dan Gilbert again, as well as his children, the Assistant GM, and Eric Snow, former Cleveland Cavalier and Philadelphia 76er. We talked more about the team of course, and were then lead into the locker room. Many of the players were in the showers, but a few had been dressing into street clothes, and Daniel “Boobie” Gibson had been doing an interview, also on television. We could have stayed in there, but decided to wait outside, on the other side of the locker room, and greet the players when they went towards the bus. I then met players like Jawad Williams (who was another favorite of mine, and who grew up in the same area as me) and Tony Battie (former Cleveland Cavalier). Not to mention a guy named JJ Hickson. He had come out of the locker room and I immediately asked him for an autograph. He was very willing to simply because I was the only one there trying to get an autograph, and the people with me were sure to tell him how much of a fan I am of him. He then signed the towel, chatted, and took pictures with me. As said earlier, this isn’t the only time I have met him, but this is easily the most memorable. I hope to be able to meet him again in the future, but it will be a little more difficult with him on another team. I believe this could me the most memorable moment as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan for the rest of my life, and I hope you enjoyed hearing it as much as I enjoyed having it.
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