I’m at the kitchen table in the house I grew up in and I’m eating a bagel and drinking orange juice from a coffee mug, but I’m all grown. Or at least as old as I am now. Maybe older. A little.
The TV is in the same place it used to be and it’s sort of the same set, but it’s somehow newer. Not futuristic or even modern, but shiny like it’s just out of the box and bigger than I remember it being.
The TV is on and there’s some kind of parade being broadcast. I squint and see big men standing on passing floats and firetrucks and convertibles and waving with huge hands at people in t-shirts who cheer and roar and whistle as they go by. One of the men on a firetruck looks kind of like Doug Collins.
Pretty soon I’m at the parade, except the actual parade part of it’s over and all the people who were on the firetrucks and convertibles are now all bunched together on a huge podium covered with streamers, laughing together and still waving at the crowd and looking a little like they just got done crying or might start any minute. I don’t think very hard about having been one place and suddenly ending up in another because Doug Collins, it was Doug Collins, is holding a microphone and talking to the crowd and they cheer each thing he says which makes it hard to hear whatever the next thing he says is, but he seems happy, and I realize that he’s surrounded by other people on the 76ers who look just as happy as he does.
“This is something we’ve been building for a long time,” I think I hear him say. “I think the first time I thought something like this was possible for this team, the first time any of us thought it was possible, was a few Springs ago when we went on that run to close the season. Even before it started, we were playing better than anybody really thought we would be, or should have been, but then we just,” he chokes up a little, “We just kept pushing and growing. The Knicks made a trade, but we passed them in the standings anyway. Eventually the Hawks, who we had had a better scoring differential than anyway, even early in the season, lost a few games and we passed them too. And by the end of that regular season we managed to get the five seed, and ran into this guy in the playoffs,” he puts his arm around the shoulder of a very big guy, the biggest one up there, whose face I can’t exactly make out.
Doug Collins keeps going but sort of fades out a little. I look around and see Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday on the stage, and Andre Iguodala is there but Elton Brand isn’t. A guy who looks like Dwight Howard is there and pretty soon, on account of the fact that Dwight Howard is one of only one people on earth who looks like Dwight Howard, I realize it is Dwight Howard. He was the one Doug Collins had his arm around. The big one.
And now he starts talking, and people cheer even louder than they did for Doug Collins. God he’s big.
“…and that, I guess is when I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I remember seeing this group that year, watching them run around, and play selflessly, and play defense, and I saw the sets that Doug was drawing up for them and I just thought ‘man, I would love to be a part of that.’ Even though we beat you guys that year, that was a series I’ll never forget. We had this team of superstars, Jameer, Gilbert and Me, but we weren’t a team that way, the way these guys were. I knew then, if the Lord was gonna let it happen, that I was gonna come to Philadelphia and win a championship there. I was gonna be the next Wilt, the next Moses, the next…”
And then I woke up.