This feels different. This year's Basketball Hall of Fame class has an air of historical significance for me that is bigger than previous classes. It is even bigger than the year Michael Jordan was inducted. And while I doubt there will be any global memes to come from any of the inductees' speeches, I can't shake the fact this is more monumental than normal.
It is bigger than Allen Iverson's vindication and justification of his career. Like most of the Basketball realm, The Answer finally has the proper response to any query about his all-time greatness. He, along with Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, and even Sheryl Swoopes and Tom Izzo, are a more impactful group of inductees than any other since I've started watching Basketball. And then I realized a more jarring truth: I'm officially getting older.
I've known this for a while now. It isn't totally new, as I have yet to experience my 30th birthday, but other personal and worldly events serve as milestones for my life. The 2016 Basketball Hall of Fame class is loaded with culturally, defining figures. Not only that, I've lived through the entirety of those eras, and can remember the day they started and when they ended.
These careers are not memories that feel like yesterday. However, to say that I've seen the entire Yao phenomenon--Hell, that I've witnessed the entire Shaq phenomenon--with clear recollection is a sign that I have a lot more minutes in my tenure here than I've accepted. I remember Swoopes being a part of the initial WNBA dynasty. Even with Izzo, one of my first real college Basketball memories is of Mateen Cleaves joyously celebrating Michigan State's 2000 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
Personally, I feel a new season approaching. I recently shaved my head for the first time, and by most accounts, I look more distinguished. I look...older. With that, the legends I've seen grow to actualize that potential retire and now enter the Hall of Fame, even the feeling of nostalgia has a more nostalgic aura to it. Basketball carries an appreciation for iconic hoopers of my generation, polished by those brightly, newly-lit stars whose journey to The Hall is still infantile.
As I was writing this, I sought help to find the words. Phillip Barnett reached out and in the midst of making me search my fandom and general humanity, shared a passage from the book A Field Guide To Getting Lost:
"Perhaps it’s that you can’t go back in time, but you can return to the scenes of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of a fatal decision; the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you, and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and what in the end possess you."
Scrolling through the scrapbook of basketball memories--Iverson crossing Jordan, Shaq in 2000, and countless others--and now preparing for them to be enshrined into The Hall blends memory and hope in my mind in a way that isn't accessible even in my not-too-distant youth. There isn't a fork in the road. I am at a landmark somewhere on the path to my version of Springfield, Massachusetts, taking it all in.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.