I have had a simple life, with simple hopes and simple dreams. Few major interruptions have prevented me from achieving my goals, which, as I mentioned, have been simple.
But not long ago I decided that I needed — nay, deserved — more. Things like fame, money and ego began to pervade my consciousness. I became bored with the day-after-day rigamarole of attending college and writing for the Daily.
In a short time, my priorities shifted from yearning to be an above-average writer for an above-average newspaper in an above-average part of the United States (which, I hope you agree, is above average), to searching out my career opportunities among the greed, glitz and glamour of the NBA.
Now, you may be wondering who in the hell I think I am. After all, everyone knows it takes years of dedication to reach the unparalleled level of skill and competence displayed by NBA players. It takes more than a 42-inch vertical jump and a quick first step to survive the rigors of competition among some of the world’s best athletes. Aaron Kirscht, you’re undoubtedly saying to yourself, is not in that category. Not now, not ever.
I freely admit I have not yet acquired any of those skills. I still have a difficult time with left-handed dribble techniques (and for that matter, I struggle with the right hand as well). My shot still lacks the smooth release and rotation found among the better players. And as for defense, I occasionally wonder whether I could guard Scotty from “Star Trek,” much less Scottie Pippen. But I’m working on it. Every day.
With that in mind, I resolved to prove myself worthy of a high draft pick and a big-money contract in the NBA. Considering the recent influx of young players who feel likewise — high-schooler Kobe “Obi-Wan” Bryant, Georgia Tech freshman Stephon Marbury and 38 others — I was confident I could make my mark.
So, per league guidelines, I sent a certified, notarized letter to the NBA offices in New York City asking to be included in today’s 1996 draft. As expected, a representative of the NBA — Lawrence Richardson, director of security — corresponded in kind.
Mr. Richardson — or Larry, as I like to call him — asked me to call back as soon as possible. I was rather busy that day, with a lunch appointment at Taco Bell, as I remember, but I thought, “Hey, it’s the NBA.” So I scarfed down a couple of Double Decker Taco Supremes with my free Daily Card Sprite and shuffled back to the office to make my call.
“I have … a couple of questions for you … Aaron.” No problem, I thought. He probably wants my stats, a videotape of me playing the game I love, maybe a small bio. Stuff for the media guide, no doubt.
“Do you play … basketball … Aaron?” An odd question, I thought, considering I was willing to forego my remaining four years of college eligibility to enter the NBA. Of course I play basketball. But I humored him: “Yes, I do.”
“Where … do you play?” Larry asked. “Are you on the college team?” I was rather embarrassed to admit I wasn’t on the team, but my spirits — and his — were raised considerably by my assurance that I participated, quite successfully, in the intramural program at Iowa State during the 1993-94 school year. Things were looking up.
“Are you … a talented player … Aaron?” After retrieving my throat from my stomach — I’ve never been so insulted, after all — I unleashed a flurry of derogatory phrases that could make George Carlin blush: “No,” I said, “why do you ask?”
After yet another long pause, Larry decided it was time to put me in my place. His efforts, however, proved fruitless. My confidence would prove unshakable. “I’m trying … to ascertain … why you feel … that you … can bring anything positive to an NBA club,” he said.
My response was the kind you’d expect from a trained professional, from a master orator who’s really in his prime (or, to borrow a rarely used bit of sports jargon, “in the zone”).
“Uhh …,” I said, “what do you mean?” That really threw him for a loop. I could tell that my chutzpah had him — and whoever else was listening over the speaker phone — squirming like Luc Longley in a triple team.
“Do you … expect … to be drafted by an NBA club, Aaron?” Larry’s latest question, another in a line of insults, really got me fuming. I was tempted to tell him that I didn’t call him in hopes that I could be “dissed” by an NBA bigwig who didn’t know who he was messing with. Instead, in a calculated, rational manner, I told him what I really thought.
“No, I don’t,” I said, with not a bit of regret in my tone.
“OK,” he said. “That explains it.” Larry went on to tell me that he gets quite a few of these such requests, and that — although he wished (really, really wished) he didn’t have to — he had to verify each and every one.
Larry also said that when the powers that be got together to discuss the operation of the draft, my name would be on “the list.” When they reached my name, Larry assured me, he would tell those assembled that Aaron Kirscht is a writer with the Minnesota Daily, who participated in intramurals at Iowa State, who isn’t a talented player and who doesn’t expect to be drafted.
At that point, Larry elucidated (with not a small amount of glee), my name would be formally removed from consideration.
With that, it seemed, my hopes for a career in the NBA were dashed. But my dreams were intact, and the journalist in me came to the fore. “So,” I said, “is that all you can do for me, Mr. Richardson?”
Long pause. Longer pause. Then the capper: “That’s all I want to do for you, Mr. Kirscht.” Click. (Now that’s what I call trash talk!)
So when the names are called today starting at 6:40 p.m., rest assured that there will be no Cinderella stories, no diamonds in the rough that made their way through the gauntlet that is the NBA draft process. I won’t be there.
I will, however, be out somewhere working on my jump shot, waiting ever so patiently for my chance to prove the NBA wrong.
Count on it.
— Aaron Kirscht is the Daily’seditorial editor