Yesterday August 14, 2016 was NBA LA Lakers Super Star Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s 57th Birthday. As his birthday came and went, I was thinking back to the time I was lucky enough to see the 1988 NBA Finals; LA Lakers versus the Detroit Pistons. I actually was coming back home to Brooklyn Heights after living in Honolulu, Hawaii’s suburb area of Kaimuki for the past 11 months before the games.
It just so happens that it was a family friend of ours New York Post Sports writer Peter Vecsey invited me back then to meet up with him in LA on my way back to NYC from Hawaii to be able to see the first two NBA Finals Home games of the Lakers with him. Although, for Game 1, I did ‘not’ actually have a seat to sit, but with the “Press Pass Game 1” that was enough to ‘let me in’. I remember I was ‘walking around’ the stadium as the game was being played. Just being there, as the crowd roared and knowing that this game was being watched by millions world wide to some extent, was something that even made me at the time realize how lucky I was just to be there, even if I was unable to ‘sit and enjoy it’. If my memory serves me correctly, I think the Lakers did lose game 1. But it was fun to be there regardless.
I then remember after Game 1 came to an end, Pete had to do some work at the stadium within the ‘press room’. I remember he told me to ‘hang out and wait’ for him, and I did. So in this one small room, that had only a ‘pull curtain’ to separate it from ‘the outside’ still literally next door to the court, I waited inside. I must of waited over an hour. I remember that the NBA Commissioner David Stern at the time
was inside the same room with me and few other Press people. I remember I was looking at some of the few xeroxed copied sheets that were on the table with notes about the game that was just played. I was there minding my own business, observing things, making sure ‘not’ to be in anyone’s way. Then, as I stood next to this one long table with the xerox sheets, David Stern was standing right next to me. I remember he sort of bent down, and was as if trying to look me straight in the eye. At that time, I wasn’t sure who he was either. He then got my attention and asked me something like: “What are you doing here”? “Who are you with”? I then said: “Oh, I’m sorry. I am waiting for my friend who is working here”. Stern asked me: “Who’s your friend”? I answered: “Pete. Peter Vecsey”. David Stern then said something like: “Oh, ok, no problem” – and then he walked away.
I also remember as I was hanging out waiting for Peter to come back, I would every now and then step out on to the court and walk around quietly – as I remember being in awe walking on the LA Lakers Basketball court. I then remember overhearing a very deep voice and it caught my attention. Sure enough, it was LA Laker AC Green. He had just showered and was all cleaned up after the game. I remember just being maybe 12 feet away from him. As he was talking to someone else, he at one point glared over at me, as I was staring at him. It was truly weird having this chance to be in that one spot.
Now, let me preface all of this too: when the game had actually finished, I had to meet up with Peter where he was up on the stands in the special area of all the press people – and by the time the game finished, Pete had me follow him to get down to the press box. Here’s the funny thing about all of this: from where we were and where Pete wanted to get to, we had to go down few hallways and couple stairways, one of which went through the LA Lakers Cheerleaders changing room! 🙂 I will never forget this – Peter had told me that it would be very crowded, and to “stick close” to him, as we walked through this narrow , very narrow hallway with stairs. I will never forget that as we walked down the last step, there was a LA Laker Cheerleader directly in front of me, as her top part holding her breasts, were dripping sweat and her bare stomach and all, right within inches of me! As a young kid back then, and most often being used to seeing those cheerleaders on TV, it was truly something I couldn’t believe I was actually able to see in real life, more so as a single guy in my early 20s back then. But that moment of bliss, didn’t last long – as we maneuvered ourselves to the smaller press room on court side.
By the time Peter came back as I was still waiting for his return in the smaller press room with all the tables and xerox copies of info, He walked in with a big smile on his face. He called my name; “Erik”? I turned – and within seconds, this yellow shirt was flying at me. I caught it – and looked at it, and unbelievably, it was an autographed t-shirt from Magic himself. Peter had told me: “I was talking with Magic, hanging out with him by his locker – and I said: I got a family friend with me, who is from NYC and is a Big Laker Fan, you got anything to give him”? Pete told me he grabbed his t-shirt from the locker and then signed it! I still have this t-shirt to this day, years later!
By the time we left the stadium that night, we were walking the back way and sure enough, we see Magic standing in the hallway ,talking with a kid in a wheel-chair. I ask Pete if we could stop and try to get few minutes with him – and well, sure enough we decided to wait. So we waited for a good half hour, but Magic was still talking. By now, I was feeling really awkward – for we were so close that it was almost as if we could be staring at them as they talked. In the end, I decided to not wait and that just getting the t-shit autographed was enough – and as I look back, it really was.
I will never forget that night – Peter and I headed back to our hotel and we had a late night snack or something and well, for the three total nights I was lucky enough to stay with him for the two games…was something I will never forget.
Although, Peter did offer one more amazing offer to me before I left LA to go back home to Brooklyn. He told me that he was going to have a ‘Guys ween-end getaway” at his home on Shelter Island, Long Island – New York, and he invited me to be a part of it. He said he was going to have two of his closest friends there for the entire week-end too, and he forewarned that ‘not much would happen’, but we would; as he put it; “just hang out”. I asked him; who else would be there? He informed me that LA Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
and “Dr. J” Julius Erving would also be there too.
The thing I learned was that when Peter got married to his wife Joan Misciagna (Joan’s maiden name) “Dr. J” was Pete’s Best Man at the wedding. So, this is how it worked – plus don’t forget, Peter is a sports writer for a NYC Tabloid Newspaper, The New York Post.
So – the high-powered sports connections occurred due to the few friends we had over the years, and it just happened to turn out this way. The other interesting note to our former friend Peter (Since now its been zillions of years since we were in touch…..) is that by the time Peter married his wife Joan Jr, and when they had their first daughter – they decided to name their daughter after my sister who passed away in 1981. My sister’s name was Kari. And when Peter and Joan had their daughter, they named her: Taylor Kari Vecsey. That was a nice gesture as a way to keep my sister and her soul alive, forever.