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NBA Finals Diary #4: Fathers and Sons and the Bonds of Basketball

I became a Portland Trailblazers fan in 1990. My dad was an artist and a musician and didn’t care even a little bit about sports. It was always my mom who I connected with over sports and basketball in particular. She’s actually the reason I started watching and playing the game around 4 when the team had Clyde, Terry Porter, Cliff Robinson, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams and Danny Ainge. Dope ass team. She wasn’t athletic but loved basketball and was RABID about her Blazers. She got me a signed Clyde the Glide drawing when I was 5 as a present, which she probably still has. 

Truthfully, a small part of me resented my dad for not caring, or even trying to care about the thing I cared about the most: basketball. He downplayed sports and its value to society in a way that still irks me to this day.

To be very transparent, I wish I had that with my dad (no shade to my mom). I wish I had a lot of things that kids have with their dads. 

So there’s always something touching to me when I see children and their fathers enjoy those rare, special moments surrounding hoops. It gets me emotional. 

Enter Playboy Marty, my producer, and his father Poppa Black. 

Poppa Black moved to Phoenix, Arizona when he was five years old. You can consider him OG Phoenix. He’s been a Suns fan, ride or die, his entire life, and the last time he got to see the Suns play at this high of a level was 1993, when his children were toddlers and the Suns made the Finals. 

They lost, of course, to the Chicago Bulls.

Poppa Black now lives in Louisiana, where his wife and mother to his two kids is from, and whom he followed when she asked to move back to be closer to family. Poppa Black passed his love of the Phoenix Suns to his two boys all the way from the Bayou. It’s been a hard road to be a Phoenix Suns fan, to say the least. They were the laughingstock of the league for the last 11 years AT LEAST. 

Fast forward to last night. 

His youngest son Palmer works in the communication department for the Phoenix Suns right now. His oldest son produces an NBA podcast where the Suns are a regular topic of conversation. The Suns are an everyday part of his family’s life. 

I knew Marty was a Suns fan and I knew his dad was a Suns fan, but what I saw after Game 2 gave me chills. At the end of the fourth quarter, with three minutes left to go, Marty and I were capturing content in Section 203. Poppa Black was in section 212. The game was starting to feel over, and the Suns were going to take a 2-0 lead and head to Milwaukee. 

Marty’s whole family flew in from the game from Louisiana to be there. Poppa Black at this point was standing up on the stairwell of Section 212 waving to his son, and Marty waved back, swirling his bright orange Phoenix Suns towel like Petey Pablo. Suddenly, Marty broke down into tears. All the emotions started to pour out of him. Man, I thought, this guy Marty is a REAL DEAL Phoenix Suns fan. 

A few moments later, Marty’s dad popped up in Section 203 to give his son a long, emotional embrace that I had the pleasure and honor to film in real-time. His dad looked up as I shot the video and gave me a big smile as he was wiping the tears off his face. Probably Marty’s if I’m being honest. And then he came up to give me a big bear hug as well, and said  “thank you so much for capturing that moment. It means the world to me.” 

Basketball, man. This is why I love this game. 

I’m getting emotional writing about this because I have never experienced that myself. Not in sports and not with a father. The success that Portland had was a LONG time ago. The last time the Blazers went to the Finals, I was 6 years old. To be at the game and enjoying the team my grandmother who lived in Phoenix (who was from Wisconsin) loved so much was special, but watching a father and son share an emotional moment like that? 

It was unforgettable. I am so incredibly happy for Marty and his family and for all the families who bonded over the Suns and who have waited so long for them to get to this point. I think I saw that less than a year ago Draymond Green said Devin Booker needed to get the fuck out of Phoenix before they sank his career, and now here they are. Two games from the promised land.

Suns in Four. Lets fucking go. 

We’ll have lots more thoughts on our Finals episode of This League which drops tonight, but here’s a recap from Suns Arena from last night. It was buzzing.