Today I would like to write about the lasting impressions you should make on people throughout your journey while playing in Europe. For that, I have to tell a short story.
In the season 2003/04 I played in England. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and met lots of great people. I expanded my game by being forced to play point guard most of the season due to injuries, but I always hoped I made good impressions on people wherever I played.
Fast forward to 2007/08 when I played my last season in Germany in the 1st league. I knew it would be my final season before retirement so I tried to enjoy it as much as possible.
Fast forward again to a few weeks ago. I was in Valencia, Spain for the Europrobasket Summer League and I was having a conversation with the CEO Brad Kalis about something and we made a joke about our wives. There was a man who happened to be walking by and he heard the joke, laughed a bit, and added to the joke. We all had a chuckle and he continued on his way with the people he walked in with. I did not pay attention to him other than laughing at his joke.
A day later, I was sitting alone in the stands watching one of the games going on and this man came over to me. I remembered he was the man that made the joke but I suddenly had a feeling that I knew him from somewhere. That happens very often to me. Usually, because I have a poor memory, I have no idea where I know people from.
Once the man opened his mouth to say hello. I noticed his heavy British accent, and I felt as if I knew him and I must have given him that look of, “I know you” because he then said, “Sean I know you.” In my mental Rolodex, I tried to figure it out on my own but I couldn’t. He then went on to say that he had gained quite a few pounds since I had seen him last and which was about 14 years ago. And then he dropped the bomb.
This nice man that was talking to me was a referee in England while I played there. He later moved to Germany and was a referee during my final pro season. That was when it hit me. This was my favorite ref of all time, Richard Stokes! I could not believe it. I remembered him because he was a mix of humorous and fair. I spoke with him often during games and although I could be quite an ass on the court due to my competitiveness, he never gave me a technical foul haha. I loved when I would see that he would be the referee at one of my games.
Anyway, Richard had since stopped refereeing and is now the Senior Director of Officiating for the Euroleague. Big time guy! We chatted for a while and caught up on old times and I had a flashback to my playing days. Richard even bought a copy of my book. At the end of the conversation, I thanked him for coming over and mentioned that I was surprised that he recognized me.
When he left, I thought about that for a minute. Here was this guy who has a very powerful position in European basketball. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but he still took the time to come talk to me, catch up and was genuinely glad to see me…all because we randomly saw each other in a gym in Valencia. What are the odds?
So that brings me back to the lasting impressions that you leave on people. Remember that people will not think too much about your accomplishments…how many points you score etc. They will, however, remember how you made them feel and if you were good to them. The basketball world is incredibly small, so you never know what gym you will walk into and see someone that you know from way back. Let’s hope that they remember you in a good way. I will remember that conversation with Richard for a long time, and I am sure that the next time our paths cross (and I am sure they will) I will instantly know who he is!