In recent times, UNC has seemed to have gotten more than its share of negative press. Maybe that's partially why I enjoyed the article, "My Tour of Antawn's Garage" written by Don Brown on Carolina Blue so much. I asked the Editor of CB if I could have permission to repost the article here and he graciously granted me that permission. Hope it has the same effect on you that it did on me.
My Tour of Antawn's Garage
Sometime back in the Summer of 1998, after Antawn Jamison kissed the floor at the final four for the last time and announced that he would, along with his buddy Vince Carter and forego his last year of eligibility at UNC for the NBA, the Charlotte Observer ran a color picture of a house that looked vaguely familiar to me. Standing in front of the house was a picture of the smiling 1998 NCAA player of the year with his mother and father. As I admired the photograph of one of my favorite UNC players of all time, three thoughts came to my mind.
First, the second greatest power forward in UNC history, only second to James
Worthy, had not actually signed an NBA contact yet, but only declared that he
would enter the draft. That's because the NBA at that time was in the process of
a "lock out," which lasted that year until after Christmas and whacked the NBA
season in half.
Second, it occurred to me that even without an income, if you're the national player of the year and have announced your intention to go to the NBA, then some bank must think you're a pretty good credit risk, and will probably lend you a sizable amount of money to buy a home for your mom and dad.
Third, it struck me that the beautiful home in front of which the Jamison's were standing was located in my neighborhood. Not just my neighborhood, but on the same street. In fact, just about a quarter of a mile
Being the fanatical, maniacal, UNC grad and UNC fan that I am, I knew that I would have to restrain myself from turning into a thirty-eight year old mouth-foaming, starry-eyed, light blue fool. So wanting to give the Jamison's and the greatest Tar Heel ever to wear number 33 - sorry Dean Shaffer, although Charlie Scott did the number proud too - their well-deserved privacy, I decided to play it cool. I would place my hand over my heart as I rode by the house every day, but give the A.C.
Jamison family their peace and quiet. After all, their son did lead my Heels to two final fours.
Then one day, in October of that year, on a Saturday morning to be exact, and disgusted with the ever-burgeoning middle aged waistline, that was a product of hundreds of "power lunches," I decided to do something about it, by golly. I strapped up my running shoes, squeezed into my "old man shorts" - as my teenage daughters who think that I'm sooooooo unhip call them - walked out of my front door, and turned right. This was my annual jog. A hundred yards into the run, my heart was pounding like a worn out jackhammer. At two hundred yards, I was sucking wind. Then I passed the Jamison house on the left. A very nice man was out in the driveway, as I turned the corner - the house is on a corner lot - and headed up the side street. "How ya doin?", the man said with a wave and a friendly smile. "Doin' good, A.C., how bout you?" I waved and called back. And then, apparently surprised that I knew the first name of the father of the greatest Tar Heel to wear number 33, Charlie Scott being a close second, Antawn Jamison's father motioned for me to jog into his drive way. Already hyperventilating, both from the arduous task of jogging a quarter of a mile at a ten minute pace and from the notion that Antawn might be home, I gladly complied.
There was Tar Heel paraphernalia everywhere. Inside the handsomely large garage, white and baby-blue paint had been erected commemorating Antawn's Carolina career. Posters remembering Carolina's two final fours were posted in the garage. And Mr. Jamison's silver Lincoln Navigator bore a license plate remembering his son's Carolina career. A.C. volunteered a few stories about P.J. Carlissimo, Antawn's new coach-to-be, then wiped his forehead, and with a look of slight, albeit not overwhelming worry on his face, said to me, "Antawn needs to go to work." And then it struck me. The NBA was still in a lockout. No signing bonus had yet been paid. The bank note was probably compounding, and Mr. Jamison was probably thinking along the lines of "a bird in hand," etc. "I'm sure it will all work out soon," I said, then thanked A.C. for the tour, shook his and resumed my routine of masochistic knee-pounding.
Fast forward nine months. It is now a new calendar year, and time for my next annual jog. The summer is upon us, the lockout is over and Jamison has completed his fist, albeit half-baked, lockout-interrupted season in the NBA. This time, as I chug along past the Jamison house, it isn't the five-foot eleven father that I see in the front yard, but rather, his smiling six-foot-nine inch, and now rather wealthy son. He was standing in the driveway, towel in hand, drying the water beaded from a spanking new, black Mercedes. "Hi Antawn," I yell and wave my hand. "How ya doing, sir?" Did he call me sir? "I'm doing fine. You just get back in town?" "Yes, sir." He did call me sir. "You doin' okay?" "Yes, sir." "Good to see you." "You, too." And off I jogged.
And several times over the years, especially in the summer, number 33 and I have exchanged those sidewalk-driveway pleasantries, with number 33 smiling and showing remarkable politeness and respect to a guy who he could buy and sell for fifty cents at a junk yard sale. Then last Sunday, at seven in the morning, it was once again time for my annual jog. I came out the front door, and turned right. At age 44, the steps were now harder than they were at 38. I huffed and puffed and heaved and jiggled. But somehow, by the grace of God, I made it as far as the Jamison's house. As I turned the corner, A.C. was in his driveway. We waved, exchanged smiles and pleasantries, and then, Mr. Jamison motioned me over. He was just getting ready to go pick up Antawn from the airport, but first, there was something he wanted to show me in the garage. I stepped into the garage, and there it was. Antawn's new toy, awaiting his triumphant return to his hometown. The "B" emblazoned on the front, unfortunately, did not stand for "Brown." It was the first time I had ever seen a Bentley up close and personal. This one was silver and sleek, and I wondered how Antawn would fit his long legs in it. Mr. Jamison confided to me what the regular price tag of the car would be.
And out of respect for the family's privacy, I won't say exactly. Although suffice it to say the regular price was about ten to fifteen times the annual salary of the average UNC graduate from the Class of 2004. But thanks to the graces of Antawn's buddy Jerry Stackhouse, who owns a Bentley dealership and would have been Antawn's teammate at UNC had both used all four years of NCAA eligibility - the thought of Stackhouse, Wallace, Jamison and Carter on the same team still makes me salivate - Number 33 had gotten the Bentley for a price only five times the annual salary of the average UNC grad in the Class of 2004.
A good deal for a good guy from another good Tar Heel. "Antawn said I could drive it, but I'm afraid I might dent it," A.C. chuckled and joked. "I'm afraid to even touch it, because I might leave a fingerprint," I joked back. "Oh well, you've got to get to the airport and I've got to finish my jog," I said, as I started to bounce out of the driveway. "Pray for me," I said, sucking in the warm, humid, Charlotte morning air. "We'll pray for each other," he said, as he cranked his Navigator and backed out the driveway, surely thankful that the lockout was over... A.C. was off to the airport to pick up Antawn. Number 33 was flying into Charlotte from Toronto. The Bentley would be waiting, and beyond that, pickup games against Rashad McCants in Chapel Hill.
Antawn Jamison, a Tar Heel Warrior, was coming home.