Each year, as December draws to a close, we list our thanks from the current year and our hopes and wishes for the coming year. This has been our practice for over 20 years. Nowhere in 2022’s hopes and wishes did I list “walk the red carpet” as I didn’t know it was in my future. But when Mary Anne and her teammates from the 1976 US Women’s Olympic Basketball team were nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, it became a possibility for me to walk the carpet with her. When the team was notified that they would be inducted with the class of 2023, it became our future. Last August we walked the red carpet with NBA greats who were being inducted along with the great women’s ’76 team. Like the other inductees, Mary Anne now has her own Hall of Fame custom ruby and diamond gold ring with her name engraved inside, and a Hall of Fame jacket with a custom lining she designed. It has images of her medals and logos from the teams she played on for the US and in France.
Before I met Mary Anne, I’d heard she played basketball in Europe for years but no one mentioned the Olympics. I guess they thought I already knew. When I heard that she played in Europe, it made as much sense to me as saying she had been hula hooping in Europe for many years. I translated it as a trust fund kid who had been goofing off in Europe for years. That was far from the truth. I didn’t know there were women’s basketball club teams, there were country championship competitions, there were competitions for the European champions. I didn’t know that players on the top or championship teams were paid and received benefits including apartments and cars.
Over the years, she has told me tales of her travels and adventures as a player and I’ve encouraged her to write them down but she doesn’t want to be a writer. So, I decided to start with one piece. Next up may be the adventures with her French club team in Sophia, Bulgaria, aka the Peoples Republic of Bulgaria, when it was a communist country, a close ally of the Soviet Union. I’ve started taking notes.
See my essay in the latest issue of the Under Review, a literary journal with a sports slant: https://www.underreviewlit.com/issue-winter-2024