When I was producing the then 2am ET SportsCenter in the mid-90's, I had the good fortune to work with Craig Kilborn. Craig and I had a few things in common; A similar sense of humor that drifted toward the whacky and a love of the NBA. We also both shared a deep appreciation for the Blazers Lithuanian center, Arvydas Sabonis, and the way he played the game. Craig and I marveled at the way Sabonis passed the ball, knocked down long jumpers and lumbered his body up and down the floor like a refrigerator on wobbly wheels. Craig was an excellent basketball player, having played collegiately at Montana State. Along with a great outside shot, Craig could pass the ball very well. I was a low-post player who liked the jump hook and the subtle pass to a cutter coming down the lane, so we both had an appreciation for Arvydas' skills. My appreciation of Sabonis ran so deep, that while covering the '96 Olympics in Atlanta, the only event that I had to get tickets to was a Lithuanian basketball game. On July 26th, 1996, the day of the night that the bomb went off in Centennial Park, I went to see Sabonis play at the Georgia Dome. He had a triple-double.
|My ticket to see Arvydas|
Early in my tenure with Craig, sometime in 1995, I had handed him a few one-liners to use on the air, but I was determined to come up with something related to the Blazer big man.
One night, lying in bed, it came to me. The next time Craig and I worked together, and the Blazers were playing, I was going to give Craig an on camera lead-in to sell my line. Finally the day came. After the show meeting I told Craig, "I'm giving you a lead to the Blazers tonight. I don't care what you say except at the end, right before we roll the highlight, you have to say, 'Remember people, he's not my-Vydas, he's not your-Vydas, he's our-Vydas!"
Craig bought it and sold it. It became one of his better known catch-phrases. It became so popular in Portland that the Blazers made a t-shirt out of it. Their PR director sent Craig one of the shirts and a note that said, "Not sure who came up with the line, you or maybe Sports Illustrated, but we wanted to show our appreciation." Craig showed me the shirt and then was quick to call the Blazers PR man and explain to him that his producer had come up with the line. The PR man sent me a very nice note that read, "I understand you not only produce great TV but great sayings as well. Thanks from Blazer Nation." He also sent along two of the shirts. One I gave to my dad, the other I still have.
Last weekend I did my annual Tee Shirt Throw Out Day. When I got to the bottom of one of my drawers, there was Arvydas on the front of the shirt, looking up at me, as if to say "Don't even think about it!"
Not to worry, big guy. You'll never be sent packing. Even after all these years, you're still my-Vydas.
It's a shame he didn't come to the states to play when he was in his prime. He was 31 when he debuted in the NBA, but his knees and feet were already problematic. He only managed 24 minutes a game in his seven seasons, but in five of those years he put up very respectable numbers. In the '88 summer games, he lead the Soviet Union to the gold medal, including a semi-final win over David Robinson, Danny Manning and company. That was just one of his many accomplishments in international competition that helped land him in Springfield. Had he arrived after being drafted by Portland in '86, we would have been treated to some great matchups against Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
None-the-less, congratulations to Arvydas on his Hall of Fame induction this weekend. I hope somewhere Craig is remembering our-Vydas fondly.