Mavs Upper Deck: The Christmas Gift

I was 12. I had just gotten into basketball, meaning, I had started watching it on TV and when I got in my driveway I was Pistol Pete Maravich, minus the ball-handling skills, shooting ability, and overall talent. In the deep recesses of my mind though I knew I could be, I just needed the right equipment. My Christmas wish that year?

I wanted a basketball. Not just any basketball; an official NBA basketball which would, no doubt, elevate my game to superstardom, elevating my shooting from clanging-off-rim to nothing-but-net overnight.

My father was a really good guy, but a guy none the less, and like all guys, he had a cruel streak. Up until that point the streak was manifest on Christmas by usually wrapping up a small doll in a special way to make it look like something good. This usually resulted in the Christmas morning family tradition where we sat down joyously opening all the gifts until we came to the last one, a special gift.

Like Charlie Brown, I was convinced every year that this year Lucy would not pull away the football, that there would be no doll inside the package. However, invariably the doll was inside, and following the Traditional Opening Of The Doll present came the traditional ripping-the-doll-to-pieces tradition that brought howls of laughter to my father.

In retrospect, the sad thing about the moment is that the doll that had been manufactured for the joy of some little girl somewhere, probably a girl whose father thought it would be funny to give her a Red Ryder BB gun and an autographed picture of Pete Maravich.

The doll never made it to its presumed destiny, as it was violently shattered into arms and legs and torso and promptly delivered to the trash can. Its sole purpose in life had been to give my father a few moments of unfettered laughter, and in that, its life had performed a great service.

On this particular Christmas though, he had gone a more traditional route: he actually bought me the basketball, the one I wanted. I knew ahead of time that is what it was. He had taken it out of the box and wrapped it in wrapping paper, so you could clearly see it was a basketball. You could even dribble it. The thing I was not allowed to do was to unwrap it. I held it, I bounced it, felt the NBA pattern under the paper, while my father pretended to be completely unaware of what was inside the package.

"Basketball? I don't think so," he would say.

It was clearly torture. The package appeared under the tree two weeks before Christmas, or as it is referred to in the 12-year-old mind, "an eternity." Every chance I got, I sneaked the wrapped ball into the kitchen and bounced it on the kitchen floor. I proudly showed the ball to my friends who were obviously impressed.
Understand, this was before the era of the video game, and kids played with actual sports equipment, outside, during this period of time. So my friends and I would stare longingly at the ball for a while, and then go outside and play Cowboys and (in an endeavor to create political correctness) Indigenous People. Of course, it would have been far better for the Cowboys and Indigenous People to work together to create meaningful dialogue and long-term understanding where all parties involved lived in peace and shared mutual respect, but in our case, they tended to shoot at each other.

What brought this to mind was the end of the NBA labor dispute which is now promising us basketball on Christmas Day, in a little more than two weeks from today, or "an eternity" to Mavericks' fans, our world champion team will return to the hardwood, or the simulated rubberized hardwood flooring, to again dispatch the evil Grinches of South Beach. We have gotten to revel in the notion that the Dallas Mavericks are world champion, we have seen the trophy, but nothing makes it quite as real as when the team is announced as "the defending world champion Dallas Mavericks,'' on opening night of the new season. I would love to be there.
As I write this, the deal has not been approved so the game is not official yet, but we kind of know it is there. There is just enough doubt, and just enough uncertainty about free agency to make it real torture, but the outline is there just under the paper.

I asked Santa for tickets to the game, good seats like next to Mark Cuban, and there is a box under the tree that has a somewhat basketbally look to it, but I have a sneaking suspicion ... that it's a doll.

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