Courtside Column: The WNBA’s first game was a defining moment for me

There are certain moments in everyone’s life that become a permanent part of who they are. These moments run the gamut from thrilling to devastating, embarrassing to affirming, hilarious to frightening and everything in between. They are cemented into your memory, woven throughout the fabric of your being. And sometimes, when you close your eyes, you can see those moments as clearly as if they were happening all over again — the same sounds in the background, a familiar scent in the air, a sensation that you can’t quite describe.

Some of my moments include the first time I scored a goal in a soccer game when I was five. Had my first major injury and went to the hospital. Drove a car by myself. Graduated high school. Went to a Buffalo Bills playoff game with my father. Flew on an airplane. Saw the ocean. Went to Europe. Left for college. Sat in a hospital room with my mother for the last time. Rode on a roller coaster. I could name a hundred more of these moments. But the one I’m thinking about today, the one that stands out the most at this point in time in my life, is the day the WNBA tipped off.

It was summer 1997. I was 19 and had just finished my freshman year in college at a school that was eight hours away from my hometown in Buffalo, NY. It was a confusing time. I wanted to get away and be on my own and yet I had been incredibly homesick the entire year. I was adjusting to the freedom of college life as well as the rigors and demands of a college education. And it was not going well. As a two-sport athlete all throughout high school, I wasn’t playing any sports in college. It was a Division III school, and I could have easily walked on the basketball team. I just didn’t have the confidence in myself to try. I didn’t realize how much I missed the structure and commitment of practices and games, and just being a part of a team until I no longer had it.

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