Where the Souls Were Sold
I was sent to Springfield in some "fan who can write" capacity (more on that later). Still, I tried to hold onto to some shred of journalistic integrity. That is, until Claude Johnson of Claude for Greenwich 2010 and Black Fives browbeat me into getting this photo taken with David Thompson.
This was probably my most exciting Hall of Fame sighting, in large part because it was unexpected. I knew that at some point, I would walk by Oscar Robertson in the lobby and feel the profundity. But Skywalker just showed up on the charter bus back to the hotel, talking with some folks about Wilt's crazy house. I had no reason to think he would be in Springfield, and got really amped. That's when Claude insisted on this very special fan moment.
1. Thompson steps off the bus, is overrun by autograph hounds—some of whom have just the right seventies SI already waiting in hand. He obliges, but isn't trying to hang around.
2. As DT beats his retreat back to the hotel, Claude catches up and suavely introduces me to Thompson. I should add that Claude doesn't know Thompson, and didn't say anything about himself. When Thompson balked, Claude changed gears, modulating his tone a little and promoting me as a very important basketball writer. I believe he even said "don't you know who this is"?
3. Thompson, a little confused at this point, agrees, but only if we can do it quick and get out of the way of the bus that's about the drive off. Everyone scrambles into position—you can see I'm still in motion—and the Hall of Famer then jogs off into the safety of the Marriott.
4. I beam, and talk, and almost get hit by the bus. Claude Johnson, I owe you for a great story and, apparently, saving my life. But as Eric Freeman joked, if any player encounter in Springfield would end with you getting injured, it's one with Thompson.
5. A little dazed, embarrassed, and strangely free, I peek into the stuffy hotel restaurant on the way to the elevator. Willis Reed, Wes Unseld, and Meadowlark Lemon are having an animated conversation about something. Oscar Robertson sits with them, but he's reading the paper.