With the sweetness of the
Lakers' third consecutive championship comes the complacency that all
is right in the world ... the same safe, smugness that we have all known
for more than 40 years. In those 40 years we have all come to rely on
Chick Hearn as the steadying, compassionate voice that has delivered us
to safety and the promised land day after day. Today, things are different
-- very different. Today is the day that, for the first time, Chick needs
us. Today is the day that we realize how much this true genius of the
human spirit means to us.
Forty years is a long time.
It was in 1962 that as a young boy in San Diego I first discovered a brilliant
historian, journalist, comedian and actor who used basketball and the
NBA as his stage. I had started playing basketball two years prior to
that fateful night, on the eve of a social revolution that Chick was about
to drive ...
Growing up in a non-athletic
household without a television set, my imagination was driven by books,
newspapers and my small, hand held transistor radio. As I collapsed into
bed on a nightly basis --- my dreams of endless games having been fulfilled
-- I convinced my parents that I was, indeed, packing it in for the evening
and, with a good night's sleep, that I would be ready for more tomorrow.
Little did they know that that is when the real action began for me. Under
the covers, under the pillow, it was the beginning of my most exciting
love affair ... and only 10 years old ... Chick, the world and me ...
what could ever be better?
I had no idea where this would
all lead, that things would only get better. No concept that the games
would go on forever ... and certainly no comprehension of the impact that
the special voice on the other end of that radio would have on my life.
Chick Hearn taught me how to
play basketball. He also taught me how to think about the game, ultimately
showing me how to love a world that has become my life ... or so I thought.
It wasn't until the years started to add up and I began to learn all the
things I was so sure I already knew that I realized that Chick was teaching
me the game of life the whole time.
There was nothing better in
life than growing up with the comforting solace that Chick was your best
friend ... knowing that at the end of the day, Chick would be there with
more. The creativity, the excitement, the intensity, the exuberance, the
vibrancy, the joy, the openness, the honesty, the personal touch -- I
always knew that he was speaking directly to me. ... I lived through Chick.
... Ultimately, I lived for him. There was nothing that Chick could not
do. He was the perfect artist who could take the dark out of the nighttime
and paint the daytime black.
Like any best friend, Chick
was always about you. He never asked, he always gave. He never whined,
complained or made excuses. He simply made things better ... always with
a smile, a beaming presence and that sense of confidence, dignity and
integrity that everything would be all right.
The stories, legends and anecdotes
about Chick are endless. They also cover every aspect of humanity. On
or off the air, Chick was the consummate professional. He was always there,
always right. He was so good he became your dad. He always delivered the
greatest messages of hope, optimism and happiness as if that was the nature
of all things. And on the rarest of cloudy days when the news was bleak,
Chick had the singularly unique ability to push back the grim fog and
clouds to unveil, once again, yet another perfect day.
I steadfastly planned my days,
my years, heck, my life around my best friend. I knew ... I had been there
before and I wanted more, I wanted it all ... I learned what I wanted
and I knew where to get it. I was never disappointed. From the beginning,
Chick was able to deliver peak performance on command --- always at his
best, somehow always rising, never dipping or dropping the ball. It always
seemed so easy, so effortless, belying the eternity that he spent selflessly
perfecting himself for me.
My best friend was a pillar
of strength and stability who carried the weight of the world on his immense
shoulders. With all the nonsense, absurdity and crazed madness regularly
swirling about, Chick always stood erect, proud and true in the face of
the most extreme adversity and devastating personal tragedy. He never
gave anyone the sense or satisfaction that the universe wasn't in perfect
Chick gave all of us everything
that he ever had. He never held back. He never looked back. It seems like
yesterday, still under the pillow with the transistor: the message, the
dream, the work ethic, the perfection, the difference, the persona, the
life, the world, the universe. No one has ever given us more -- yet that
is all we want on this first lonely day in more than 40 years. That is
what best friends are all about.
Hall of Famer Bill Walton was a three-time NCAA Player of the Year
and a member of UCLA's undefeated NCAA championship teams in 1972 and
1973. The first overall pick of the 1974 NBA Draft, Walton led the Portland
Trail Blazers to the NBA title in 1977 and was also a member of the Boston
Celtics championship squad in 1986. Walton was recently named lead NBA
analyst for ABC and ESPN.