In a few weeks, Nov. 24 to be exact, will mark a five year anniversary for me. No, it’s not a relationship anniversary. This special day commemorates the time I met one of my favorite basketball players.
Growing up as the youngest child out of two girls, my dad raised me as the “son he never had.” Instead of collecting Barbie dolls, I collected basketball cards. Instead of playing house, I spent my free time watching the game of the night, whether it was a Bulls-Jazz or Lakers-Celtics game.
Wearing a Scottie Pippen No. 33 jersey, I would yell at the TV every time a referee makes an absurd call. I would yell so loud that my mom would say, “You’re yelling as if you’re part of the team.” But I was so into it that it felt like I was.
In 1996 the Lakers made one of their smartest moves by selecting Little Rock, Ark. guard Derek Fisher in the first round of the draft. Since then, I have been a dedicated Fisher fan.
On Nov. 24, 2000, one of my biggest wishes came true. It all happened at an Athlete’s Foot in El Segundo and I remember it like it was yesterday:
It’s 12:30 p.m. on a sunny Saturday. A black stretch limo enters the parking lot and stops in front of the store. The door slowly opens and the 6’1” Fisher steps out. He waves to the crowd. Before entering the store, he gives me a big smile and quietly says, “Hi, how are you doing?” Too shocked, I just smile back.
I take a deep breath and muster up the courage to meet him. The security guard gives me the signal to approach Fisher. My hands, which happen to be holding the basketball cards for him to sign, begin to shake. I walk toward the table.
“Hi there,” Fisher says.
“Hi,” I say with a shaky voice as I hand him the cards.
“Wow, these cards are pretty old,” he says. “My jersey number is not even 2, it’s 4.”
I’m so nervous I don’t know how to reply. Instead, I blurt a statement that came out of nowhere.
“I know a lot of people tell you this, but I am your No. 1 fan,” I say as my whole body shakes from nervousness.
“Thank you so much, my No. 1 fan,” he says with a smile. “And don’t worry, I don’t get it that much.”
“So what’s your name?” he asks me.
“N-N-Nila,” I say with a stutter.
“Nila,” he repeats. “That’s a really beautiful name.”
Again, being a nervous wreck, I don’t say anything except for another irrelevant comment: “I just want to tell you that I love you so much and I will always be your No. 1 fan.”
He does not say a word. Worried that I scared him, I just stand there.
What I didn’t know was that the next few seconds would be the highlight of my year: Fisher leans over the table and gives me a kiss on the cheek. Yes, a kiss on the cheek.
“That’s a thank you for being my No. 1 fan,” Fisher says.
The security guard points to the line and signals me to leave because the crowd was getting restless. Still in shock, I say goodbye.
“Bye, sweetie,” he replies.
As we leave the store, I am so excited that the only words I can come up with are “I will never wash my face again.”
Looking back, it was stupid. I was that typical lame teenager obsessed with their celebrity crush. But at the time, it was one of the greatest things to happen to me.
Nila Priyambodo, a junior journalsim major, is managing editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.