If I only had Bob Lanier's feet
Happiness comes in all sizes. Long ago and far away, a 15-year-old gym rat fresh from another day on the basketball courts was convinced that happiness looked a lot like a 6-foot-11, 250-pound Motor City giant named Bob Lanier, whose size 22 sneakers would have put Big Foot to shame.
Lanier died recently at the age of 73 after a storybook NBA career in Detroit on his way to a permanent shrine in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. But to me, he will be forever young and forever locked in oversized toe-to-toe combat with the basketball immortals of my youth: Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
I envied Lanier — his graceful hook shot and deadly mid-range jumper. But most of all I envied those legendary feet. Several seasons riding the bench in high school were enough evidence that I would never soar above the rainbow to the basketball Oz I imagined.
If I only had the feet.
Oh, the feats those feet could perform – propelling me beyond the reach of my gob-smacked opponents.
Yet despite my importuning, my feet would — well— just stand there, stubbornly clinging to a lowly size 11, as I dribbled into adulthood still fantasizing of the marvels I could perform with double the shoe power.
Today I live in Springfield where I can visit Bob Lanier’s bronze shoes in the Basketball Hall of Fame the way Dorothy might spot her ruby slippers in some forgotten corner of a closet.
It’s been a long time since I donned a basketball jersey and hoop-dreamed of the 11 sizes between me and Bob Lanier. Yet I'm reminded of them each time I walk past a crowded asphalt court and imagine the boys — and now the girls — dreaming of the game-winning shot that swishes through the basket as the clock nears zero and the crowd roars.
Do they wonder — I wonder — does happiness lie inside a size 22 sneaker? Or do they know as I know now that the only shoes they can really fill are their own.
Robert Chipkin writes and lives in Springfield. He recently published a collection of columns he wrote for The Republican titled "Paws to Remember."