There was a complication with today’s piece for the site. So I thought this was the perfect opportunity to tell the story behind my About Page picture with the Celtics legend Paul Pierce. Enjoy!
My wife Courtney and I got married on June 14, 2019. I’m ‘of that age’ where everyone is getting married. Courtney and I have countless friends who had to cancel or transform 2020 weddings and I honestly feel terrible for them. Our wedding was beautiful. It was magical. On June 15, 2019, I was profoundly grateful for the experience. Here on March 10, 2021, I cannot put into words how fortunate we were. But there was more magic to our wedding than just happening to sneak in eight months ahead of COVID.
As the founder of this website, you can imagine when I think of June, I think of the NBA Finals. Always an exciting time of year for me, I have long associated the end of the finals with the start of the Summer. The NBA is gone and it’s time for me to put basketball aside and head to the pool, sit around the fire with friends, heaven forbid, attempt to make it through three innings of a Red Sox game (shudder)!
I am a lifelong dyed in the wool LeBron James fan. I’ll save that story for a different day, but leave it to say, the back half of the 2010s—with the exception of 2016—was painful. I hated KD for going to Golden State. I still do. So even though I have literally zero connection to the Toronto Raptors and feel quite indifferent about Kawhi Leonard, I was passionately rooting for them to crush the Warriors.
Courtney and I’s wedding was in Berkeley, CA at Tilden Park. She’s from Sacramento so we flew into Sac to be with her family on Monday, June 10th. Game 5 was that night and her family friend hosted a watch party. I was ecstatic! What a beautiful kickoff to this paramount week in my lifetime. This is perfect I thought! I can sit back, eat burgers, watch Kawhi and Co. close the door on this god-forsaken dynasty and then transition my full energy to the week ahead!
As you may or may not remember the Warriors won 106-105. The game was tied 103-103 with 0:57 seconds left and Klay hit a three from the wing and the Raptors couldn’t overcome it. I was devastated. I am an emotional person. How the hell was I going to navigate the emotional rollercoaster of the finals + my wedding?! Well, the Golden State win turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.
When we arrived in Berkeley in anticipation of the wedding, Courtney and I stayed at the Claremont Club & Spa. It is honestly the most incredible place I’ve ever been. We are truly beyond fortunate to have the privilege of that experience. It is out of a movie. You could see the Golden Gate bridge from our bedroom window; the best service, the finest decor. Multiple swimming pools, 500 tennis courts—and no basketball court, come on!
As we’re checking in, Stephen A. Smith walks past me. Now I’m not a huge First Take guy, but it’s Stephen A! I was like what is happening? Getting married is already surreal, the Claremont is pure fairytale material, and after this, I wasn’t sure if I’d taken the red pill and didn’t realize.
We gathered our luggage, checked in, and went to our rooms to unpack. After, we met my parents for lunch on the veranda (now that’s a word I’ve never used!). We walked through the Claremont restaurant to sit outside on the patio and as soon as we step outside directly in front of me is Jalen Rose. I love Jalen. He’s long been my favorite NBA analyst and I miss his collabs with Bill Simmons to this day. As wonderment had already cost me my chance with Stephen A., I was determined to jump on this opportunity.
“Hey Jalen! I’m a huge fan.” I said frantically. “I’m here getting married! Would you take a picture with my wife and me?” “Yeah man, no problem.” He responded with calm warmth. In a frenzy of emotion, I handed my phone to his lunch date, who I only later realized was First Take host and his wife Molly Qerim. (Still feel kinda bad about that!)
To be honest, words can’t really describe the experience. As an agnostic, diehard NBA fan, I did start wondering. Over the next three days, I walked past or ran into as many ESPN stars as I did my own family. Restaurants, lobbies, coming and going, prepping interviews, having meetings. All totaled, I interacted with or saw Jalen Rose, Molly Qerim, Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, and Sage Steele.
I never did talk to Stephen A., but I did get a nod. On Thursday night, the night before my wedding, the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. Courtney and I separated for the night by this point—as is customary—but my dear friend Will hung with me. We literally sat in the hotel bar and watched Jalen, Stephen A., Paul and others recap the game from Oracle Arena and 30 minutes later stood in the lobby as they all returned to the Claremont. You can’t make this stuff up.
I’ll leave it here. I had already talked to Jalen, I already had the picture, I was already on cloud 90, then the impossible happened. I walked down to the restaurant to get breakfast and standing in the entrance was Paul Pierce. Now I am a 32-year-old from Western, MA, which makes Paul Pierce my hero. He was the first player I fell in love with when I started following hoops in the early 2000s. When the Celtics won the 2008 championship, it meant everything to me. I worshipped Paul.
On the About page, I share the bit about bringing up the 2010 NBA Finals that we lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. What I did not mention was that I put my arms out and declared, “Paul, I’m here because I’m getting married!” He looked me up-and-down and in a matter-of-fact voice responded, “Oh no.”