A Snowstorm Didn't Stop This LeBron James Fan From Catching The Game
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And one more sports story left. The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers played a midseason game this week. January games are not usually considered momentous. But for our friend and Portland-based NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman, and his son, this game was.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Like zillions of kids who play basketball, my son Max loves LeBron James - always has. Even when Steph Curry became the NBA's it guy, Max stayed true to LeBron. But he never saw him play in person. So for Max's recent 18th birthday, I bought two tickets to see LeBron and the Cavaliers this week.
As the day approached, his excitement was mixed with apprehension. Fans in Memphis recently were furious when James didn't play in a game there. Resting your superstars has become more common and a point of contention in the NBA. But Max and I decided to stay positive, believing LeBron would play. The big day finally came. And so did the snow.
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UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR #1: And there's the cars just littering the roadway that were left last night.
UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR #2: And those abandoned cars still - yes. Just by the dozens...
GOLDMAN: News stations heralded Portland's biggest snowstorm in 20 years. It brought the city to a screeching halt. But the game was on. And the latest word was everyone would play, including you know who. One problem - our 20 to 30-minute car trip to the arena now was impossible. The light-rail train was an option. But the nearest station was a two to three-hour hike. Who would be crazy enough to do that in the freezing cold and snow?
GOLDMAN: Warm socks?
MAX: Two pairs of socks - check.
GOLDMAN: Tickets right there. It's 2:30. Game's at 7:30.
GOLDMAN: We'll try to make it.
We set out. And, soon, it started snowing again. But with visions of LeBron pulling him forward, Max set a ferocious pace.
Max, hold on up there. He's a full hundred yards ahead of me. He's actually been jogging a few times uphill.
The whole first part of the trip had been uphill. We got to the top after an hour and 40 minutes.
How you feel?
MAX: Better than ever.
GOLDMAN: Better than ever? How are your feet? How are your feet?
MAX: My feet are fine. My legs are kind of sore.
GOLDMAN: Right. Yeah, but you were running a little bit up there.
MAX: Yeah. Well, I wanted to get to the top.
GOLDMAN: Well, hold on. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. One more thing - we can still go back.
GOLDMAN: We pressed on and got to the train stop at 4:30, two hours after we set out. The train traveled exactly one block and stopped. A tree had fallen on the tracks. So we got out, walked another 10 city blocks, got on another train. And sooner than you can say frostbite, we were in.
GOLDMAN: About 40 minutes before gametime, fans cheered as LeBron James stepped onto the court to warm up. Max opened his mouth but could only muster sounds.
MAX: Uh, uh, hey.
GOLDMAN: After 10 minutes of gawking and Instagramming from courtside, we headed up to our seats and watched the hometown Blazers pound the Cavaliers, 102-86. Normally, Max would be ecstatic. But on this night, anything Portland did was secondary. LeBron was good, not great - twenty points, 11 rebounds. But he also had five turnovers. No matter - he was there. So was Max. Mission finally accomplished. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Portland.
(SOUNDBITE OF LALO SCHIFRIN COMPOSITION, "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.