Let me take you on a little journey in the way back machine if I may. I take you back to August 1992, Yanitelli Center in the campus of St. Peter’s College in Jersey City and The Bob Hurley Basketball Camp. Hundreds of aspiring basketball players filled the 3 court gym that is the home of the St. Peter’s Peacocks that day, for a multitude of reasons, but the main one was Mr. Hurley’s sons were going to be there.
Being a Jersey City kid, who had never heard of Duke University until my Catholic School 4th Grade teaching mother had come home in January of 1990 and said that one of her former students was going to be playing on Channel 4 that Sunday against Notre Dame, was in fact pretty damn cool and exciting. So the next day I walked into St. John the Baptist School and into Mrs. Sheridan’s 2nd Grade Class Room and said that my mom taught a kid who is playing basketball on Channel 4 on Sunday against Notre Dame. It’s 1990, I’m 7 and I’m a Catholic School Student, of course the only College I knew were Notre Dame and Harvard and I only knew Harvard because my parents had taken me to Boston the year before on Easter break. After making this statement to Mrs. Sheridan she looked at me and I thought she must think I’m nuts, but instead” Your mom taught Bobby Hurley”, huh who is all I could think. I get home and said to mom, did you teach Bobby Hurley, she said yeah, and I said oh Mrs. Sheridan asked after I told her about him being on Channel 4.
This may have been the first basketball game I had ever watched and immediately, I was hooked. That week I started asking my parents and grandparents for anything Duke, t-shirt, hat, rubber basketball, but the holy grail was a #11 Duke jersey, I figured at that time I had a Phil Simms and Sean Burke one, why not get my favorite basketball players. The jersey though would have to wait.
It was then that I began following Duke, hell I even learned how to spell Krzyzewski at 7, thanks Mrs. Sheridan for all the help on that one, if Duke was on TV, I had to watch them. And this was in the days of only 1 ESPN, so imagine how hard it was then to find a Duke game on TV. While kids in the neighborhood were Seton Hall fans after their run to the Final Four in 1989, I was a Dukie, while they pretend to be Michael, Larry or Magic, I wanted to be Bobby, the kid from Jersey City, the kid my Mom taught in 4th Grade at Our Lady of Mercy.
After Duke advanced to the National Championship game in 1990, Mrs. Sheridan asked me if my parents were going to let me watch Duke play UNLV that night, I said yes and she said make sure you get to bed right after it’s over, imagine that a teacher saying it’s ok to stay up late and watch a basketball game… The next morning ass dragging after Duke got it’s ass kicked by UNLV, she asked me how I was and I told her I cried myself to sleep, because Bobby and Duke didn’t win. ( Get off my back I was 7, you are allowed to cry at 7) When it came time to pick number in Little League, I wanted to be #11, worked for Simms and Hurley, had to help me.
But getting back to the original story, Mr. Hurley’s basketball showed one thing to me, I had no shot at the NBA, but I enjoyed playing the game and it was good exercise so why not at least get a little better to play with the neighbor hood kids. Their had to be more than 100 kids at the clinic and everyone wanted to coached, by the reigning Most Outstanding Player of that year’s NCAA Tournament and the kid from Jersey City who a month earlier was playing games against Larry, Magic and Michael, we all wanted to be those guys and in the ShopRite on 440’s photo center their was a picture of Bobby next to those guys. Now at this point, I had probably watched every single Duke game that was on TV since the 1990 season, I learned how to read box scores to see how well Bobby and the team were doing, and I am on the same building, let alone the same basketball court as him. As the camp awards and prizes were given out, now I know there were 101 kids there, if for no other reason, my loving mother has broken my balls enough about, not winning a raffle prize to this day. I’m 30, it was 20 years ago, I’m over it.
So after the camp is over Bobby gets mobbed, I work my way over with the help of my Mom and Bobby’s 4th Grade teacher to get my copy of Sports Illustrated with Bobby on the cover signed, which I still have, but I also own an 11×14 reprint that hangs on the wall of the Man Cave Studio. After Bobby put his John Hancock on it, my mom said let me introduce you to his brother Danny. Danny who I knew from watching the Sweet Sixteen game between Duke and Seton Hall, and it was even cooler seeing the whole Hurley family on Good Morning America back in March. I told Danny he played a great game against Duke that night and thought that he was very good and I looked forward to watching him play the following year, he thanked me and we started talking and shooting around, he asked me where I went to school and said my Mom was his favorite teacher, something I hear a lot of, I only wish I had her. After maybe 10-15 minutes we said our good byes, mom snapped some pictures, still have this adorable one of Danny holding my sister, I thanked my mom for sending me to the camp and how great it was to meet my sports hero.
The following Duke season led to Duke being ousted by Jason Kidd and California, but for my 11th birthday the elusive Blue #11 Duke jersey was mine, yes my version of a Red Ryder BB gun, I love that jersey and still have it. But it was also awesome because Bobby had been drafted to play for the Sacramento Kings, no directv and league pass then, so Mom had promised me part of my Christmas present would be to see Bobby and the Kings play, since dumb-ass me screwed up my chance of seeing Bobby and Duke play against Rutgers in his Senior year, as long as I could keep my grades and act together, which I did. I didn’t see Duke play live and in person until this past December against Temple and you know that scene in Rudy, when his Dad walks into Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, yeah, that was me seeing Coach K walk onto the floor. What a thrill to see Bobby play against the Nets, I don’t remember if the Kings won that night, all I remember was that I was 10 rows on the floor cheering my 11-year-old heart out for “Jersey City’s Prince who became a King” as the late Ed “The Faa” Ford wrote as a headline of his column in the Jersey Journal, shortly after the night that would change Bobby’s career forever.
During the 1992 USA Basketball practices between The Dream Team and the college all-stars that were playing them to get ready to play in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Larry Bird had said that Bobby was a future perennial All-Star, Magic Johnson fell in love with his game and I think if you ask His Airness, he would have loved to have Bobby run the point for his Chicago Bulls teams. I remember waking up early on December 13, 1993 after going to the New York Giants game the day before and learning that both the Knicks and Bulls were rumored to be interested in trading for Bobby, who at the time was splitting minutes with Spud Webb. As I turned on the TV in my room, I hear Sacramento Kings star Bobby Hurley was involved in a serious car accident and sustained life threatening injuries…….
BOOM, you hear that at 30 and you stop, think about being 11. I went and told my mom and for the next 2 hours we watched TV trying to learn more, I was crying so hard, I didn’t go to school. All I wanted to do was find out if my hero was OK The Jersey Journal kept everyone in Jersey City, updated on Bobby’s condition, I sent a get well soon card that same day, a few weeks later, a postcard came thanking me for the best wishes.
That year for Christmas, my Grandma, who hated seeing me so upset bought me a pair of ITZ sneakers which Bobby was endorsing, I got some other clothes from them which where really cool and I only wish they had survived. I got my Sacramento Kings Bobby Hurley jersey for Easter which I just found in my basement…Score!
It was that summer though, he was on the comeback trail and playing in a Summer League game at St. Rose’s gym in Belmar, were I would be all of 5 feet form the end line of a game he was playing in against Anthony Mason of the Knicks.
Sports Illustrated wrote a great article on his road back, and the road back was completed the next fall, when Bobby returned to the Kings lineup.
Why did go all fan boy in this post, 1 reason, when I learned that Bobby was going to become the new Head Basketball Coach at the University of Buffalo, I felt that the journey was now complete. I always agreed with The Faa on his headline, but I have an addition to it, “Jersey City’s Son who became a Friar, a Blue Devil, a King, a Survivor, a Grizzly, a Horse Owner, a Husband, a Dad, a Hall of Famer, is now in the Family Business, now isn’t that what a kid from Jersey aspires to be?”