I think we both were.
Me, a boy with few friends and no concept of identity.
You, an icon, an empty vessel to project on.
You seemed isolated, abrasive, demanding, disagreeable.
I felt it. I perceived it. I understood. An outcast — the company of one is often fraught.
Nonetheless, you excelled. You dominated. You gave me hope. You succeeded on a foundation of single-mindedness and inner strength. Drawing from a well so deep, another person couldn’t possibly have dug it.
You used your will as a hammer, relentless.
— but you were also flawed, deeply flawed. I was a kid; I didn’t understand.
Heroes are ideas and people are, well, people. They create mistakes, they thrash, they fall from grace. You showed me that. You showed me a flawed protagonist, sheen stripped. You helped me grow.
I started to change. I pivoted away from a philosophy of slights and retribution. Amiability became a strength and not an inherent weakness.
Over time you also began to change.
Perhaps you realized it was unsustainable: transmuting anger and frustration into fuel, into excellence. We need to share. We need acceptance.
I watched in awe as you let the world — into yours, no longer recluse. You welcomed them and people began to see what I saw.
Stories, moving stories, you were just beginning to share. Stories of your hardship, your loneliness, your trials, our trials.
The second leg of your journey had only begun and I was eager to watch, both of us having evolved.
You were my childhood hero, a compass. Now you’re gone.
To a lonely kid with a basketball… you meant a lot, you still do. Rest easy, you have company now. We both do.