The Day I met a Living Legend

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Friday, December 13, 2013 with 6 comments
Life is often filled with ironies that can't be explained, once in a lifetime events that no matter how hard one tries could never be duplicated.  Everyone who knows me understands that basketball is my life, my love, my passion and even those who I work with daily accept this as fact.  While at the day job any free moment I have is dedicated to The Hardwood Nation so I'm often seen with iPad in hand waiting to deliver NBA news to you the fans.  This past Friday was the rare moment when worlds collided and something simply amazing happened.

When the latest Miami Heat trade rumor caught fire, I had a few free moments so I pulled out my iPad and began to type the article for The Hardwood Nation.  Upon completion of the article I was loading a picture of Heat center Joel Anthony underneath the text when I was greeted by an older gentleman.  The gentleman needed assistance finding a couple of products but he knew exactly what he needed and their price points, peace of cake I'm thinking at this point, I grab his items, process the transaction and have him on his way so that I could finish uploading the article. 

As I turned around to retrieve the items (still with iPad in hand) the gentleman noticed the picture of Joel Anthony on the Ipad's screen.  Immediately the atmosphere of the interaction changed.  Prior to that moment, the older gentleman was rambling about needed to replace his older equipment with the newer one but as soon as he saw the image of Anthony, I heard the following word echo from behind me:

"Do you know that you're speaking to an MVP of an NBA ALL-Star Game?"

My response was simple:  "I did not."

The gentleman followed me as I gathered his items all the while telling me stories of how he'd played college basketball at the University of Kentucky for the legendary Adolph Rupp and how one of his favorite NBA teammates was NBA great Oscar Robertson.  He even quizzed me to see if I knew that Robinson is the only player in the history of the NBA to average a Triple Double for an entire season.  Initially I thought that the customer was pulling my leg and that he was a super fan from days long past but there was something genuine in his voice that I couldn't look past.  As our time together was seemingly coming to an end and I was processing his transaction, I didn't have enough change to break his bills (2 $100 Bills) and I called to have changed delivered to my location. 

Now having extra time while waiting on the change, I asked the gentleman for his name which he proudly provided and I proceeded to write it down so I wouldn't forget.  I explained to him that once I arrived home that I was going to look him up, he looked at me and smiled and said go for it, you'll see that I am who I say I am.  At this point he had me about 75% sold on his identity but it was a name that I'd never heard of in the NBA and I consider myself as an NBA Historian.  During the 10 or more minutes that we waiting on change he told stories of Oscar, playing against and with Jerry West and also how he led the league in free throw shooting one year and even detailed why players now have a hard time being consistent at the free throw line.  He even spoke of being a member of the greatest US Olympic Basketball Team of all time (long before the Dream Team) that was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.  At this point I'm entrenched in the conversation and wanted to hear more.  In the span of about 15 minutes he gave me a snapshot of his entire career arc and during that time his pride and passion was evident, he, standing in front of me relived his entire career some 30 years after it had ended......he just needed someone to hear his story and I was the lucky guy. 

1960 US Olympic Basketball Team
1st Row
3rd from the right-Adrian Smith

Soon the change arrived and we shook hands and it was at that point that he noticed my championship ring, a Miami Heat championship ring from the 2012 victory.  He looked at me and stated the following:

"I really don't like James but I've never seen a player like him and he has the chance to be the greatest."

I told him that I agree with him and then he stated that one day he'll come back and we'll go to a local park and hoop, I thanked him for his time and my journey into the past was over.  Later that evening I arrived home and almost forgot about the folded up piece of paper that I had in my pocket.  I opened it up and did a google image search of the gentleman I had met that morning and I was astonished, despite the images of him being his younger self, it was indeed Mr. Adrian Smith.  A Wikipedia search soon followed and reading his entry was like having the conversation with him again, it was all there.  Mr. Smith's career spanned 10 NBA seasons (Royals & Warriors) and during that time he averaged 11.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Now at age of 77, Mr. Adrian Smith just needed someone to hear his story, needed to feel that sense of pride again and I needed meet him, capture his life story for this very moment.  I never mentioned to Mr. Smith that I created and operate The Hardwood Nation, I never felt as if I had to but once I validated that I did indeed meet the MVP of the 1966 NBA All-Star game, I knew that I would honor Adrian Smith in this way, on my site so that his story will leave on.