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The NBA through the eyes of a nine-year-old Spurs fan

I was where she is now 40 years ago soaking up the USFL

Jeph Duarte

I have a tendency to live on the obsessed side of Spurs fandom. And although I have carefully groomed my daughter to appreciate the Spurs, I was not aware of what this summer would bring.

I had never allowed myself to believe the Spurs would get the number one pick in the NBA Draft. Suffice to say, when the announcement was made, my excitement was immediate and loud.

My daughter, Elizabeth, came running into the room shouting, “What? What happened?”

“The Spurs just got the number one draft pick? The Spurs are going to get Victor Wembanyama!”
“Who is that?”
And that was all it took. We were off and running. We sat in front of my laptop together soaking up Victor Wembanyama highlights, getting to know this generational player who would be the third in a most impressive line #1 draft picks chosen by San Antonio.

Here’s what I didn’t anticipate:

Over the next days and weeks, I watched almost any sports/basketball show that fed more information into my already overloaded mind.

Draft night at the AT&T Center was a great night. Once the first pick was called, all my attention to ESPN went out the window. But there she was, commenting on where people went and when they were picked.

We watched the televised Draft Night (which we had recorded) for the next few days, unraveling who had been traded to where and how it effected other teams, primarily the Spurs.

I was amazed by the way she sponged up the knowledge. I couldn’t believe someone so young was taking such a deep dive into the NBA. And then it hit me — she’s my kid after all…

In 1983, the USFL kicked off its first season of springtime football. I don’t know why I was interested or what made me pay attention in the first place, but I soaked up the whole league.

My dad, who knew nothing about the USFL (but plenty about its well-known fall counterpart) still talks about how I knew all the teams, the players, and the special rules differentiating it from the NFL. I watched all the games that aired and I knew the standings of the entire league.

I was rewarded a year later when San Antonio was graced with a team during their expansion. The San Antonio Gunslingers came into existence and I was able to attend a USFL game in person. (To this day, my band is called The Gunslingers as an homage to my childhood passion, I didn’t know until years later the Spurs were briefly called San Antonio Gunslingers before they settled on Spurs.)

This kid has all that memory and passion to dedicate to the Spurs, but not just the team anymore, the entire league. I couldn’t be more excited to sit and watch Friday’s game with her. The questions she asks are great. Introspective. She thinks about how the players think, and her take on Victor Wembanyama nearly brought a tear to my eye.

“He looks good, he just needs his confidence to increase, but that will come with time.” She commented on his passing, blocks, assists, and shots. Her take was honest, yet hopeful. Like her age should allow, she isn’t mowed down with negativity or expectations that veteran fans often struggle to manage.

There’s something pure and wonderful about seeing this through her eyes.

On Friday night before the Spurs/Hornets game, my daughter asked, “Who is Wemby facing — Brandon Miller of Scoot Henderson?”

The fact that she knew those names and what they meant in the conversation with Victor Wembanyama told me we are in for a fun season together.

The San Antonio Spurs’ second Vegas Summer League game is tonight at 7:00 on ESPN2.

Go Spurs Go!

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