Monday, June 23, 2014

How Cool Was Meeting Larry Johnson?

A few weeks ago, I took my students on a field trip to Central Park. I was playing basketball with some of the boys, and one of them hit a three-pointer while also drawing a foul. I did the "LJ" hand sign, and the kids looked at me like I had been reincarnated as Randle McMurphy.

I was confused at first, then I realized that Larry Johnson's famous four-point play took place in 1999, before any of my students were even born.

"Do you guys really not know about Larry Johnson?" I asked the kids.

They all shook their heads, at which point I stopped the game and made them take out their iPhones. (Because they have iPhones and I have this phone.)

I told the kids to search "larry johnson 4-point play" and they loved the videos they pulled up. I mean, go back to that clip I embedded above and watch the Madison Square Garden crowd go bonkers. It's just mesmerizing.

Now, fast-forward to last Friday. I found out in the morning that a bunch of Knicks staffers would be visiting our school to work with the basketball teams. And they'd be bringing Larry Johnson with them. Trust me, I bee-lined it to the gym when I got a chance to sneak away from the classroom.

I've bragged about interactions with B-list celebrities before, and I'm sure I'll do it again. Anyways, it was great meeting LJ. When I told him that the four-point play was one of the best moments of my childhood, he said that he hears similar comments at least once a week.

At the end of the hoops clinic, LJ and a bunch of the other workers organized a dance contest among the students. When the eventual winner finished moonwalking and roboting -- causing mass hysteria -- LJ ran at the kid and gave him a chest bump that basically knocked him over. I just couldn't stop thinking about Grandmama, and how Larry still seems to be that fun-loving young guy we watched in the '90s.

Yesterday's fantastic -- albeit disappointing -- USA-Portugal game showed, once again, the power that sports can have. And meeting Larry Johnson as an adult was a reminder of how much my teams mattered to me as a 13-year-old, and how much they still do.

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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