On my 11th birthday, my aunt and uncle brought me to the Pistons game on March 31, 1993, where they took on the Portland Trail Blazers. Not only would I’d be going to the game, but I would also be one of the pre-game ball boys (catching rebounds in practice). There were no guarantees that I would get autographs or have a more than one-minute convo with any of the players. There was a possibility of going into the Pistons weight room, but I can’t remember if that was possible or a guarantee. The host of this little get-together was a man named Dan, who had glasses and a blond parted hairdo.
I got to walk around the court for a while with another boy and girl who were doing the same thing as me. Hoping like hell that the Pistons would come out and shoot some baskets so I could be in the presence of the Bad Boys. But in the beginning, only some of the Trail Blazers showed up. I can’t remember if I was told to stay at one side of the court or if I just stood over there thinking that this was the Pistons’ side for practice.
At my side, two Trail Blazers, a black man and a white man possibly being Joe Wolf (he was the only white man on the Trail Blazers roster in 1992-93), had approached my side and began to play 1-on-1. The other boy and I didn’t quite understand that they wanted to play 1-on-1 and the two of us kept getting in their way and running for their missed shots. The two kindly told us to go to the other half of the court. As we made our way to the other side, I saw the white man shoot a brick (slang for an airball) and yelled out loud, “augh s–t!”
We got to the other half of the court to see that the girl was having some trouble getting the rebounds for the three Trail Blazers shooting. Two of them for sure were Terry Porter and the late Jerome Kersey. The third I couldn’t remember, but for sure it wasn’t Clyde Drexler (the star player of the team that year). A staffer had told me to stay near the basket and toss the ball to an available player. After a little while of me slowly passing the ball to the enemies and hoping for Isiah and Co. to come on down, George Blaha, the Pistons play-by-play announcer and the color commentator they had at the time, along with a cameraman were setting up for the Pistons pre-game show.
The camera was pointing a little to the left of the basket where the three aforementioned Trail Blazers were taking their practice shots. Me, the attention whore that I was (and occasionally can be these days), was looking to be on TV. I believe I was warned to not interfere with the show whatsoever or else my time on the court would end instantly. And the possibility to meet the Pistons would be done, and I did not want to do that. So, my hopes were for one of the Trail Blazers to miss a shot that seriously deflected to the left, or throw a bad brick from the right.
If you watched the Pistons pre-game show on March 31st of 1993 whether it was on PASS Sports (RIP) or channel 50 (WKBD), you may have seen behind George and his color commentator at the time, a little douche wearing a cheap $4 Pistons hat backward running for a basketball, then passing it as quickly as he could, and you may have heard someone say, “Yo, you, hurry up.” In the defense of Porter, the late Kersey, and the other player, there were a couple of times I purposely would avoid the area without the camera. I really wanted my 15 minutes of fame without effing it up. And I can’t blame them for getting frustrated that I was making their practice a little more difficult.
After that was done, Dan led the other boy and me to the Pistons weight room where we were joined by another boy. I was so excited. I saw Alvin Robertson, who had been in the All-Star game four times previously; he was curling while watching TV. I also saw Joe Dumars using an armbar and we were told not to bother him. Then, we saw Isiah Thomas, and Dan introduced us to him.
We all shook hands and Dan then added, “Isiah, today is Robbee’s birthday.”
He said to me, smiling, “Oh, happy birthday.”
Dan then lead us to the Pistons bench, where we saw that a couple of Pistons were out shooting baskets for their pre-game warmup. Mark Randall was part of the group. Otherwise, they were sitting on the bench talking about the game plan with the coaches, especially head coach Ron Rothstein. That would be his last year head coaching in the NBA.
The four of us got individual photos with Mark Randall, who happened to be scratched from that day’s roster. He was not wearing his basketball gear, but just a pair of shorts and a standard Detroit Pistons Basketball t-shirt. They took the photo, which I later got in the mail, a matte black & white photo with a 6’8” Mark Randall on bended knee on the right. And the birthday boy with his $4 Pistons hat backward, holding an official NBA basketball.
In 1992-93, I was in a Special Ed class and I just couldn’t wait to get to my class the next day to tell them the news. For show and tell, I told everybody the great story of me being the ball boy in the pre-game. And how I got to meet Isiah Thomas. Also, I asked, “Do you guys see me on TV?”
Nobody did. I wasn’t happy about that one.
Later at lunch, I was told one of the biggest bullshit stories ever. One of my fellow special-ed classmates said to me that he knew Isiah personally and many of the then-Pistons roster. He said one of the players at that time (don’t remember whom) came to his house before.
Bloggers Note: The photo for this blog was going to be the picture of me at 11 years old and Mark Randall. We still haven’t found that photo yet.