Befriending a Legend - My Family Travels
basketball

Oregon. Almost as boring as Iowa, if you think about it. My parents are nature-lovers, but me? I care not about the natural surroundings and environment; I live in a technologically advanced era and can do much without waterfalls and caverns.

 

Fifteen years old at the time, I could only express an insuperable quantity of gratitude towards God that our vacation was approaching its brink. What’s good about Oregon, anyways? Don’t even try to say the Portland Trailblazers, the professional basketball team, because they are possibly the worst franchise ever in the history of sports. Ever.

Point being, Oregon sucks for a young teenager without a matured mentality. In the summer of 2004, my family conversed ceaselessly in the airport, waiting for our flight home from a trip to Oregon. My parents gossiped amongst each other of the current family ‘big deal’ of purchasing a new home and the rest of us four brothers talked incessantly about sports, including tribulations that were obstructing our favorite franchise, the San Antonio Spurs, to prevail.

Our flight left at nine o’clock from Portland, stopped in Los Angeles, then in San Antonio. As I was about to go through the security checkpoint, a tall black man, almost seven feet in height, ripped — “ I mean RIPPED- walked out of the exiting portion of the security line. Shining illogically, the gold cross on his chest looked tiny on his massive build, but could have possibly compared to the size of my entire leg.

Honestly, I looked at it and said, ‘Ow! My eye!’ I looked up and my eyes met his. A turn of his head revealed his cornrow weaves intertwined betwixt one another; braids so neatly tied, yet so gangsterishly dirty. In a grandeur realization, the entirety of my surroundings became blurry and spun inescapably as I became caught in a whirlwind, then, all went black.

Everything went unnoticed except the presence of this man. It was as if I had cropped him, taken the inverse and released any visuals or audibles around me, and it was just me and him and his gold cross. I, staring at this seven foot all-star, he, staring back, most likely at the turban on my head.

In a sudden rush without even thinking, I yelled. ‘JERMAINE!’ Really, I must stress my exhilaration through capital letters. Just like that.

‘JERMAINE!’ Along with my love for the Spurs comes the passion to watch every game possible, including games against the Indiana Pacers, who had a seven-foot all-star center, Jermaine O’Neal. As I began to settle down, I realized about one minute later that I had a camera in my hand. My settling down lasted only a few seconds and I began to panic as I wanted to take a picture of him for proof of this story.

Not knowing where he could be in the entire airport, I sprinted around looking for a tall, black man with bling, making sudden cuts and spins and front of people in order to keep my momentum going. With the turban on my head, I was hoping people weren’t suspecting I was up to something, but my thought process quickly suspended itself while I caught sight of him, already four steps down an escalator, and my time was running out. I ran to the onset of the escalator and did it once again. ‘JERMAINE!’ He cocked his head back, almost escaping sight, yet still a foot taller than everyone else boarding the lazy stairs, followed by a flinging of a peace sign noticing the camera. Doing a little clickity click, I captured a picture that contained a fanatical story within it so as to carry on a day of surprises comprised of another to-be NBA legend. So, here I was, arriving into Los Angeles, staggeringly high off my Jermaine O’Neal rush.

Due to this rush, I kept a lookout for anymore famous people while walking around in the airport yelling, ‘JERMAINE!’ I’m sure without doubt that people thought I was crazy or some sort of terrorist and my turban didn’t help much to my advantage. I arrived to the gate carrying passengers from Los Angeles to San Antonio and noticed a tall black guy with some bling on his chest across the gate. After my confrontation with Jermaine, my superstar description was composed of exactly this. As long as I admit to my stereotypical ideologies, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put my stereotype to the test, which basically was- tall, black men with nice bling play ball. I propounded the idea to my brother, but he just threw it back in my face and told me my theory was possibly the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. Ever. Well, being the brave, daring, amazing, courageous person I am, I confronted him and asked him if he played basketball anywhere.He replied in a thick African accent, ‘Yes, I play for Xavier.’ I couldn’t help but notice the ring on his finger, shimmering, stacked with diamonds and a blue letter X from his elite eight victory at Xavier, which instantly meant ‘baller’. I asked to take a picture with him and he agreed, but sadly, eyes wide and lips distant, I look like an idiot in the picture.

Perhaps I was still shocked that my stereotype worked, and was ecstatic that I figured to use this theory for my science fair in the upcoming year. As we boarded the plane, I placed my carry-on baggage in the overhead compartment and took a seat next to my brother just as a stewardess came on the P.A. and announced that space was limited and a mother and young daughter wanted to sit next to each other. Without hesitation, my brother and I offered to split with realization that we had an excuse not to sit next to each other and put up with one another the whole way home. While my brother got to sit next to an exciting tubby fellow, whom later I found out talked about cheese the whole time due to his childhood in Wisconsin, the other open seat was next to Romaine Sato, the Xavier superstar. Immediately, I took the seat and we talked for a while and recognizing his limited knowledge of English and civilities of the states, I ask, ‘So why are you in Los Angeles?”Because I’m trying out for Lakers,’ he replied with the most serious face and thickened accent. I think to myself, is a man who can hardly speak English going to joke with a total stranger? Yes. Yes he is.But then I take in his ring and realize that he is not flippant at all. Well I’m not the fondest person when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers, but in a situation like this, you can’t help but to think to yourself that, ‘Wow. I’m sitting next to a future NBA player.’

Thoughts churning, I began my next inquisition.’So you’re headed to San Antonio — ‘Unable to finish my sentence, he completed it for me.’To try out for a Spurs team.’ If you don’t know that I love my Spurs by now, you obviously do not know me well enough. So, being the daring, crazy, courageous, amazing person I am, I asked him if I could wear his ring and take a few pictures with it. Now, I thought God was just messing with me as he agreed to let me wear it. But as he was about to take the picture of me, my batteries cut off circulation to the camera and I powerfully cursed at them. The proof that I had befriended a future player of the Spurs that had allowed me to wear his gorgeous elite eight victory ring was ablaze in the midst of a treacherous fire. Or was it?’I have da’ batries.’ As this declaration was made, the fire was abruptly diminished.I still have those batteries sitting in a Spurs cup in my room. Blessed are the batteries that Romaine Sato gave me.

Now not only do I attain a picture with him, but I have Romaine Sato’s ‘batries.’ As the flight landed a few hours later in San Antonio, we departed in such sweet sorrow. But, being the courageous, daring, amazing, brave person I am, I got his autograph along with his e-mail address. I got Romaine Sato’s e-mail address. And in the rulebook of friendship of Raj, E-mail address giving is the first sign of friendship. Ironically, one week later, Romaine Sato got drafted by the Spurs, and I honestly went temporarily senseless for a few days, telling the populace of any public realm I came across that my friend was drafted by the Spurs.Two years later in 2006, I was going on a long trip to Laredo for a soccer tournament and decided to go to HEB grocers and grab some snacks for the journey. I was in the cereal aisle and reached out to grab some Cocoa Pebbles when at that same moment, a tall, black man with bling reached out to grab some Fruity Pebbles one shelf over. I slowly turned my head and was staring at a gold chain that read ‘R.S.’ Before I caught sight of his face, I felt a shimmering reflection fly across my eye and noticed a ring stacked with diamonds and a blue letter X from an elite eight victory. Romaine Sato remembered me.

I felt blessed that my turban had a positive impact, which for me, was a rare occasion. This time around, I spoke with him for a while on his experiences with the Spurs and noticed progression in his English and I got his phone number. I got Romaine Sato’s phone number. And in the rulebook of friendship of Raj, phone number giving is a sign of real friendship. With Romaine Sato remembering me, it led me to believe how blessed I really am. With my turban, I must always keep a good head on my shoulders and express myself in a positive aspect. Because there is a small community of turban wearing Sikhs, I am representing an entire community at large, and I never felt more thankful then I did when two years passed, and Romaine Sato remembered me.

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