When I was very young, I dreamed of being a basketball player. Nevermind that I was a tiny, unathletic klutz. I had this dream of being just like Dave DeBusschere.
They called him Big D. In my neighborhood, we called him Double D.
The Castaldo's had a basketball hoop nailed to the telephone pole in front of their house. We gathered there after school and played fast and loose with the rules of basketball. No matter how bad I was, how many free throws I missed, no matter how many times I got knocked on my ass by boys twice the size of me, I was, in my mind, number 22. I was Double D.
I always had a thing for defenders and rebounders back when I loved pro basketball. The way Dave DeBusschere could reject what seemed to be a sure swoosh in such an effortless way made my heart pump wildly. Later on, after the Big D years, my favorite NBA player was Mark Eaton, who reminded me of DeBusschere.
My lasting memory of Big D was not of him as a player. Sure, when I think of him I do think of the ABA (where he was manager of the Nets and then headed the league) and its red, white and blue basketballs. But that's not the image in my mind - it's of DeBusschere the Knicks manager, slamming his fist on the table as his team secured the first pick overall in the NBA draft, earning them a chance to grab Patrick Ewing.
I haven't watched an NBA game in years. They stopped making them like DeBusschere long ago. The league just wasn't the same without guys like him.