For 99.9 percent of us who pick up a basketball during our developmental years begin our “careers” with the illusion that making the NBA is a legitimate possibility. We watched our idols prosper on television during the night time and would attempt to recreate those amazing plays in the schoolyard the next morning to various degrees of success.
At some point, something gets in the way of the NBA pipe dream: not being genetically blessed enough in the height and vertical department, not having the time to dedicate your days and nights to getting better at putting a ball in the hoop and having more of an interest in other aspects of life are all valid examples of roadblocks to the NBA.
Personally, when I was cut after my freshman year of high school basketball in British Columbia I decided to take my talents to being the team’s manager being responsible for stat-taking and game film. In that role, I was afforded the experience of watching their excellence up close and personal from the opposing bench.
I witnessed my high school team take on some great players who have gone on to have success at the collegiate level. However, even the most talented players eventually made the transition from player to fan or coach.
Everyone, but current Laker Rob Sacre.
My first experience watching Sacre play was in the final of a major provincial tournament in 2006 between his high school, Handsworth Secondary and mine, Vancouver College. At the time Sacre was a dominant big man who commanded the attention of our entire team every time he touched the ball, but not many people projected him to be a professional basketball player one day. We even managed to defeat them that night (I’m unsure of what the final score was now six years later).
Upon graduation, Sacre went on to become a Gonzaga Bulldog, a school that has a penchant for recruiting elite Canadian talent. I kept up with his progress sporadically as I do with most British Columbia exports that now play college or professional ball in the United States. To his credit Sacre’s role expanded every year he was a Bulldog, culminating in his senior year where he averaged 11 points and six rebounds a game. Again, solid numbers, but as the draft drew nearer and Sacre was eligible to be drafted, nothing was guaranteed.
He was being likened to names such as Francisco Elson. Chad Ford, ESPN’s draft guru, ranked him as the draft’s 81st best player in a draft that only has 60 selections available. Scouts criticized that six rebounds a game for someone who’s 7-feet tall wouldn’t be enough at the NBA level.
Despite all that, British Columbia still tuned in to the 2012 NBA draft with realistic expectations that Sacre would be the first player since Steve Nash to be taken and earn a roster spot in the NBA. I joked with my friends before the second round of picks began that the Lakers should take Sacre with the last pick of the night just so we can say we’ve watched and played against a Los Angeles Laker. As luck would have it, Mitch Kupchak and the rest of management rolled the dice and actually selected Sacre with the 60th overall pick.
The moment when he was selected, my body went numb for a several seconds. Someone who I’ve crossed paths with in life is now an unofficial member of my favorite NBA team. Rob Sacre is corralling offensive boards and handing the ball off to Kobe Bryant, while I sit in my bedroom with posters of Bryant covering almost every square inch.
The series of fortunate events continued for Sacre. He played well-enough over the course of Summer League to earn a contract to training camp. Due to Dwight Howard’s injury, Sacre actually started five of the Lakers’ preseason games up until Howard’s return on Sunday night. And in one of the most serendipitous moments in the history of sports, Sacre’s first bucket as a Laker in the Golden State game was assisted by his fellow British Columbian, Steve Nash.
I know it’s preseason but that assist was storybook and should be immortalized by every citizen from Canada’s best province.
Sacre is one step away from making the Lakers’ opening night roster, having survived two rounds of cuts already. According to reports, Sacre and Darius Johnson-Odom are being considered for the final one or two roster spots.
More often than not, my fandom for the Lakers is questioned due to geographical reasons. I constantly hear that I should have followed the Grizzlies to Memphis or I should cheer for the Blazers now because they’re the next closest team.
Jerry Seinfield once quipped that “loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify. The players are always changing. The team can move to another city. You’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it. You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.”
While there may be a large blotch of truth ridden in Jerry’s satirical rant, if Sacre were to survive the final cut, it would truly cement my allegiance to the purple and gold.
I’d no longer be cheering for laundry, me (and the rest of British Columbia) will be cheering for the kid from North Vancouver who made the league (as a Laker nonetheless) despite the 99.9 percent odds that were stacked against him.
In case you missed it: Dwight Howard talks about the slow process of putting together a championship team.