Essay | Things That Were Cool

Oh, man, after you read this, you aren't going to be my friend anymore.

First, I think I need to explain a little bit about professional wrestling.

Back in the early 1990s, my cousins got me into watching WWF pro-wrestling. We had toys, we watched tapes, we talked, and, yes, threw each other around the room. As with most kids our age, pro-wrestling was one of the things. It was WWF and Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles and it was all a sparkling, shimmering spectacle to young eyes.

Now, those other things I listed still have a modicum of respect among fans as they get older. At some point, there's this weird retrospective part of the brain that starts to mythologize what we liked in our childhood. Transformers and GI Joe are prime examples - we liked them as children and then we liked them as adults. Nostalgia makes things that were uncool, cool again.

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Essay | We Had Courts

It's hard to tell now, but basketball used to be a defining part of my life. When I was a child, it was more than just a hobby and sport of choice, but my goal in life. Back when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls defined the league, when Dennis Rodman was more than just obscure pop culture trivia, when Nick Van Exel was the coolest guy on the Lakers. Today, it's a faint lingering taste. It's a source of brief nostalgia.

Charles Barkley, Dennis Scott, Shawn Kemp, Grant Hill, Tony Kukoc, David Robinson: these guys were my NBA. They was my cast of characters that I had grown to know from stats on the back of Upper Deck trading cards and blurbs in SLAM magazine. Now, these guys are either all retired as color commentators or analysts. A few are still playing, but as backups to backups, veterans with limited minutes in free agent limbo whose sole purpose is provide mentorship or act as maturing influences on the locker room.

The prime example of this fall was Penny Hardaway, who could be described as my basketball idol. I had the shoes, jersey, even sent him a letter (all I got back was an application for his fan club.) It's not uncommon: Penny Hardaway's work with Nike & Chris Rock on the Li'l Penny shoe commercials made him a household name and a piece of 90's pop culture. It endeared him as the cool new star that young kids could latch onto, many of which still latch onto today. It's a rare quality for sports stars: not just a following, but a cult following.

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