To celebrate Christmas, I am sharing my Christmas Day columns, a tradition that started in 1996. Here is the 2005 version:
A Christmas story, circa 1971: His parents did a heck of a job. The kid was 10 years old, maybe 11, and still he believed in Santa Claus.
Still believed, even in sunny California, that old Saint Nick delivered the goodies on Christmas Eve.
Until the time, a couple of days before Christmas, he went outside and decided to check out his dad’s car trunk.
There sat all the toys. A bicycle. All the prizes Santa was supposed to bring.
“Dad’s Santa Claus,” said the boy.
A bubble was popped. An innocence was gone. On the basketball court, many a bubble would be popped by Byron Scott.
A Christmas story, circa 1999: Life at a military academy is different. Every day is the same. Even Christmas.
Rise at 5 a.m. Roll. Stand at attention. Breakfast at 5:47.
Students had received a pass a few days earlier to go home but had to be back on campus before Christmas Day.
The day’s highlight was just sitting around with fellow students, waiting to call home. There wasn’t much to do anyway, in the one stoplight town of Chatham, Va.
Funny, but it didn’t seem all that sad. Really, it was life preparation. Basketball would mean quite a few Christmases away from home for David West.
A Christmas story, circa 1988: With five sisters and a brother, you’ve got to share.
But it sure is tough when you’re asked to pass around Super Mario Brothers. A Nintendo from under the tree turned this Christmas into the best ever.
He didn’t even open the rest of his presents. Just hooked up the Nintendo and started playing. Played it all day long.
After Christmas Day, the Nintendo turned into community property. When someone put it down, someone else picked it up.
Not this day. The recipient had claim and played it all day. Soon enough, sharing would become mandatory for an NBA point guard like Speedy Claxton.
A Christmas story, circa 1990s: He does the same thing every Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, go to his grandfather’s church for carols and snacks. On Christmas Day, the whole family — uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents — go up the street to the community center for a festival of food, presents, more food, and some football on TV.
As many as 60 people would gather, making for quite the mob scene. Now you know why maneuvering in a crowd is no big deal to Chris Paul.
A Christmas story, 2003: He grew up poor. Poor and fatherless, after his dad died when the boy was eight years old. His family was on welfare; he ate free lunches and wore hand-me-down clothes.
His mom taught him that a lot of people lifted him up and to never forget his roots.
So years later, when money was plentiful, and he could buy his own lunch, he followed his mama’s advice. Each year, he would adopt a family at Christmas. Buy gifts and deliver them.
This Christmas, guided by the state welfare workers, he was directed to a certain family. He went to their apartment and found a destitute family. Children slept on the floor. No heat.
So he came back, this time with furniture. Sofas and beds and a TV. And cash. Enough cash to pay the heat and air bill for a year. Just a little something to help a family get on its feet.
On Christmas Eve, he went to services at the First Baptist Church, and lo and behold, the family showed up, too, to again say their thanks and to embrace the man who didn’t forget from where he came. That was the best Christmas present ever for George Shinn.