Can’t help rooting for the Bay Area’s Jason Kidd 

The NBA playoffs have become personal.

Jason Kidd has another chance to win an NBA championship.

He’s 38 years old, has worn three professional jerseys (Dallas, New Jersey and Phoenix), played 1,267 NBA games (not including playoffs), and it feels like a million years since he was the biggest name in Bay Area basketball, first at St. Joseph’s Notre Dame High School in Alameda, then at Cal.

Born in San Francisco, Kidd was the Bay Area’s LeBron James before there was a LeBron James. Every basketball fan knew his name by the time he was a high school sophomore, and he only amplified his local presence by choosing Cal. 

In college, Kidd was a terrible shooter. He could score, but watching him try to make outside shots was painful. Wide open, all by himself, on the practice floor, he had trouble making shots.

It didn’t matter, because Kidd dominated every possession of every basketball game he played. He did things I’ve never seen before.

He once took the ball away from an opponent.  Not when that guy was dribbling, but when he was holding it. Kidd just reached out with two hands and took the ball from him. It took everybody a few seconds to figure out what had happened.

Kidd was the second overall selection of the 1994 NBA draft, chosen after Glenn Robinson (Purdue) and before Grant Hill (Duke).

Robinson retired in 2005, but Hill still plays for the Phoenix Suns.

Kidd has a chance to play in the NBA finals for the third time.

He reached the league’s ultimate series twice while a member of the Nets, who were swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002, then lost to the San Antonio Spurs in six games in  2003.

I have to root for Kidd because he’s the star of the only first-person sports story I can tell. 

I filled in as a radio play-by-play announcer for Cal broadcasts during Kidd’s senior year at Cal, and actually became part of one game.

Late in the first half against St. Mary’s, a loose ball bounced over the press table, and Kidd leaped to save it.

He took one step on the table, and then tried to jump over the broadcast crews, only to land directly on top of me. 

My headphones flew off, the two of us spilling onto the floor between the press table and the first row of seats.

Hovering directly over me, Kidd said, “You OK?” as he tried to help me to my feet.

I replied, “I think it’s more important that you’re OK.” And back onto the floor he went. 

I ran into Kidd in Phoenix several years later when he was traded to the Suns, and reminded him of his leap. He said without hesitation, “Against St. Mary’s, right?”

How can I not root for him?

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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