Ranking my most memorable Valentine’s Day isn’t all that hard.
My memory only goes back so far.
Still, here goes.
3. San Antonio, three or four years ago. Dinner at a small restaurant on the Riverwalk.
The walk across the bridge and back to the hotel carried the smell of spring.
2. New Orleans. My wife and I flew in on the last night of Mardi Gras. The restaurant was nearly empty. Private booth, candlelit table, live band playing soft jazz.
1. My most memorable Valentine’s Day (this must never be repeated):
There is a good reason my Valentine’s date with Darryl Dawkins — who nicknamed himself “Chocolate Thunder” — is unforgettable. First, my wife tried hard to talk me out of going to the game. Dawkins was retired from the NBA and playing for the Harlem Globetrotters. They were in Salt Lake on Feb. 14, 1995.
How could I resist?
“Which is more important?” my wife asked.
I felt terribly guilty right up until I asked Dawkins my first question. He produced a column that still makes me smile. He told me he loved traveling by bus to games. The team was scheduled the next night in Pocatello. Pocatello! He spoke of his NBA days and busting backboards and naming his dunks.
I still rate it as good an interview as I’ve ever had.3 comments on this story
“I was ahead of my time,” he told me. “Back then, you break a backboard, they’d penalize you $5,000. If I did it now, they’d make a commercial out of it.”
I had expected a surly, entitled former star. I got a guy who didn’t just love hoops, he loved life. He was naturally funny and, unlike most NBA players, made eye contact when he answered a question.
“I love it,” he said of his vagabond life. “If I’d known it would be like this, I would have come back (from Italy) sooner.”
If I’d known he’d be that funny, I would have met him on Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving, too.