For David Aldridge, end of the road after a long, memorable journey

NBA.com Global on Oct 09, 2018 06:51 AM
For DA, end of the road after a long, memorable journey
Photo c/o @daldridgetnt

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst

One last time
Relax, have a drink with me
One last time
Let's take a break tonight
And then we'll teach them how to say goodbye
To say goodbye
You and I

“One Last Time,” Hamilton

* * *

The first words of the first Morning Tip, back in 2009, made it plain: this column was to be a blatant ripoff of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, which then appeared in Sports Illustrated. All I wanted the Morning Tip to do was summarize the week that was in the NBA, the way Peter so expertly did in the NFL, perhaps make a few predictions, answer a few of your questions, and maybe tell you something you didn’t know about the league and the people in it.

I didn’t know if a lot of people would read it. I didn’t know if it would have any impact. I didn’t know how long I would do it, or be asked to do it.

Almost a decade later, I have my answer.

Basketball, I was told long ago, is a culture. And the Morning Tip is a labor of love, a weekly electronic gathering for people who, like me, love the NBA and everyone in it. We let anyone in -- men, women, black, white, Latino, Asian, South American, straight, gay, rich, poor, famous, infamous, weekend warrior, never played past high school, LeBron James -- if you love the orange leather. The game, and the people in the game, are what gives the NBA its singular, intimate relationship between those inside the paint and those watching outside.

I’ve tried to chronicle that relationship over the last decade. Today is the last time.

This is the last Morning Tip. From me, anyway.

And Tuesday is my last day at Turner Sports, my work home since 2004. I leave not because I was unhappy with Turner, or because Turner was unhappy with me. It’s just a time in my life when I need to pull back from the endless grind of travel, and be at home more, with my wife and kids. To cover the NBA as well as you can, you need to fly. A lot. And after 30 years of being on planes, I’m a little tired, like Forrest Gump after he had been running for two years.

My first road trip covering the NBA came on Election Night of 1988 -- Nov. 8. It was, relatively, an easy trip, a quick jaunt up to New Jersey to watch the then-Washington Bullets play the then-New Jersey Nets. The fact that there’s so many “thens” in the previous sentence kind of proves my point. When I started flying for a living, I sat in the very back of planes -- which was where the smoking sections still were. (You haven’t lived until you’ve had a steady diet of menthol in 27E for two years.) I flew PanAm and TWA and USAir, took the Delta Shuttle up to New York. The few cell phones in use all looked like this and I didn’t know anybody who actually had one -- they were the province of those then known as The Rich and Famous (who had their own show, dedicated to them).

The year before, I had written my senior thesis in history in college in our university’s one computer lab, three hours at a time -- three hours being the maximum amount of time you could spend at a computer at one time -- and saved my thesis on floppy disks. Women on TV wore shoulder pads bigger than Walter Payton’s.

It was a while ago, y’all.

And during those three decades, I’ve seen so very, very much that I will never forget: Jordan’s sleight of hand and “The Shrug”, the Pistons’ amazing team defense in 1990 and the Pistons’ amazing team defense in 2004 -- both NBA championship squads. I won’t forget Magic at the All-Star Game in 1992, after he’d retired from the NBA because he had tested HIV positive, back in the days when we thought that was an automatic death sentence. And I won’t forget him and the Dream Team in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics, providing in their dominance of the rest of the world a challenge to the rest of the world to get better at basketball. Which it did.

I won’t forget Allen Iverson almost single-handedly taking the 76ers to The Finals in his MVP season in 2001, nor what Shaq did to Dikembe Mutombo, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year that season, in those Finals. I was at LeBron’s first game, and Kobe’s last game. I was as surprised as anyone when Tim Duncan told me his Spurs would beat the Heat in the upcoming Finals rematch in 2014. I saw…

Oh, for God’s sake, David. You’re not dead yet. You’re just changing jobs. You’re going to see more cool stuff.

True.

But, I will miss Turner, immensely.

The people at TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com have been my work family the last 14 years. The ride has been magical. I mostly, obviously, covered the NBA during those years. But I also got to cover the late Roy Halladay’s no-hitter for the Phillies against the Reds in Game 1 of the 2010 Division Series. (I’ve never watched my postgame interview with him. I felt so inadequate at that moment, knowing the historical significance of what Doc Halladay had done -- just the second postseason no-hitter in the history of the game, and the first since Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees against Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. And in the moment, I thought my questions -- any questions, I guess -- didn’t match up to what he did.)

I got to see Jayson Werth’s ninth-inning homer in Game 4 of the 2012 Division Series against St. Louis save the Washington Nationals’ season -- and I got to see the Cardinals’ epic comeback from a 6-0 defcit the following night to snatch the series away from a stunned Washington crowd. I got to cover March Madness and college football.

But, mainly, I got to work with the best group you could possibly ask to spend weeks out of your life, away from your real family. They excelled at their jobs, but were even better people.

I’m going to forget people, I know, and I apologize in advance to those who belong here, Chalk it up to a hundred Last Calls and being a Gen Xer. But, thank you:

David Levy. Lenny Daniels. Matt Hong. Craig Barry.

Jeff Behnke and Jeff Ogan.

Kiely, Jeremy, Fiorello

Bone, Sponge, Heitz; Damon, Ross, Mike B.; ReLo, Lonnie, Lipp. Rich, Howie; Alisa, KRob, Rodney; SteveL, Nia, LoriB.

Donzell, Salim, Maceo; Sammy, Ann, Allison; Gerch,

JohnnyO, Bert, Matt, Timmer; MD, Tony; Vandy, Bill, Kristin (and Robin).

The Fabulous Danielle, Laura, Vanessa.

Al, Andy, Victor, and the hundreds of folks who, every week, do the seemingly thankless work of dragging cables, doing graphics, picking up heavy cameras and holding them bolt still in the midst of a maelstrom so that you get the exact perfect look in your living room, and the dozens of sound techs that make sure you hear every words.

Marv. You’re a legend, and it was an honor.

BA, Ian, Dick.

Pat, Marty, Paul.

Harlan. You made every game a blast, and I can’t thank you enough for your inclusiveness and generosity.

Ledlow. She could have settled for simply being talented, or compassionate, or driven, or gorgeous. She opted to be all of those, in one wonderful persona. Go change the world.

Thank you, Craig Sager. You were a terrific colleague and a great example for me of someone who took the work seriously, but never took himself all that seriously. And I will never, ever forget how you lived your life -- all of it, including the worst of it, with a smile on your face.

Sekou, Asch, Schu; Shaun, Lang, Scott; Fran, Art, the Q.

Reggie, CWebb, Greg; Isiah, Mac, Czar.

Al Whitney, my playoff road dog.

Matt, Casey, Kamla; Vince, 3D, Smitty, Bones.

Kelsie, Towanda, and everyone in the studio.

Olivia, Leah, Z; Ben, Nate, Tareia; Megan, Jay, Jake, Bridget.

Eric Jackson. My man, you are nails, in all things. Thank you for having my back, for being a sounding board and for setting a shining example to all of us in the building.

Tara August. You have been an incredible boss, friend and supporter, and I thank you for believing in me.

Scooter Vertino. No one knows how two people become friends. Even they don’t know. You are a friend, and always will be.

I hope you see now that the TV side was its own community. The Tip was the digital version of that community -- people that loved the NBA and wanted to take a long, deep dive into what was happening on and off the floor. And that involved interaction with fans as well. During the last decade I’ve gotten e-mail from every continent save Antarctica (what’s up with that, Ant?), and 95 percent of the correspondence has been either genuinely constructive or complimentary. When I made factual errors -- geography being a particular shortcoming, which drove my old social studies teachers to drink, early and often -- your corrections were almost always good-natured.

My quest was to connect you not only with the game’s superstars, but with the guys at the end of the bench, with the announcers, with the cities and the arena -- what it was like to be there, from every angle, and what it was like to put a team together, or have to take it apart, and how you went about doing it.

You saw what rebuilding was really like in Philadelphia, what losing a team was like for Seattle’s loyal fans, what ending a 52-year championship drought meant to people in Cleveland, a city that, like so many others, wrestled with where sports fit in the grand scheme of things.

You were in the room with guys who interviewed to be head coaches, and there when the Clippers, improbably, were able to beat the Lakers to Chris Paul. We went to London and Rio for the Olympics.

We did Q&As with everybody: Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki and others. We had guest Tippers when I was on vacation.

And I heard from you, every week.

The Mailbag was a two-way street, where you could give your opinions, trade ideas and feedback on what was in the previous Tip. You were very kind in your praise. And, we disagreed about a lot. But it was almost always civil. I especially learned much for our discussions about issues of race and gender.

I could not in good conscience ignore what has happened around me and us the last decade. I did not stick to sports. And we had very respectful discussions about guns and the Second Amendment and police brutality. Sometimes, we agreed to disagree. Only a handful of times did someone -- a person I’m sure did not really care all that much about basketball -- cross a line.

It was not easy to put the Tip together. It was not easy working 48 weekends out of 52 every year, writing until 3 or 4 a.m. many weeks, to make sure that the absolute latest info was there. It was not easy checking, and re-checking, and triple-checking all the numbers and suppositions, rumors and quotes that went into every Tip.

But it was my absolute pleasure.

Until we meet again.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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