DAVID PYE: Happy memories of my affair with basketball
I TOOK a trip down memory lane last week as a taste of America visited the North West.
The basketball stars of the NBA were in Manchester as the reigning Olympic champions continued their London 2012 preparations with a warm-up against Great Britain and I went along with almost 17,000 others to see the new “Dream Team” in the flesh.
It was just like regressing for me after a childhood love affair with the game.
Football has, and always will be, my first love and I’ll always be devoted to the beautiful game.
But that didn’t stop me straying for a long-time affair with basketball in my teens.
I think my love initially came about through playing the game at school and, as someone who now stands at 6ft 5ins, it was natural for me to get selected for the team as a tall teen.
Then, there was the now routine desire to dabble with the American styles – the Nike boots, LA Lakers cap, Chicago Bulls hoody; like many I was like an extra from Boyz in the Hood.
But it wasn’t just that unreachable American dream for a young Mancunian, we had our team in the city and the BBC’s screening, albeit late night, of the likes of the Boston Celtics and Lakers got me hooked.
I used to watch Manchester Giants and later the Eagles and loved the end-to-end tempo.
Of course, I grew older and ditched the Hi-Tecs for Lacoste and discovered the joys of footballing away days.
But deep in my heart there will always be a fondness for shooting hoops.
So to see the modern-day stars of the NBA strut their stuff in my back yard was a chance I wasn’t about to pass up.
As for the night, it went as many expected with Kobe Bryant and Co comfortable winners by 40 points against Team GB.
They look odds-on to retain their Olympic Gold in Stratford next month.
Whether they will ever reach the heights of the 1992 all-stars of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, however, is debatable but it was still great to see the USA’s top players here.
The night was a success and there are plans for an NBA showdown in Manchester next year.
If it is as successful as the NFL games at Wembley and last week, there could be another generation wanting to be kids from America.