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I lost a very dear friend on Tuesday. He was one of the great ones. We met in Albany on the basketball courts. I used to kid myself that I was as good as he was. I never would let him know that I knew he was better, but he knew he was better but he would never let me know he knew he was better. He would just prove it time and time again. He was special. We called him Zipper. Zip for short. He already had the nickname when I met him and it was obvious why he had it. He could push the ball up court and Zip by or around anyone. Besides, all the coolest kids growing up always had the greatest nicknames. At school we became great friends. He had that rare quality to draw you in. You wanted to be around Zip, he always had a funny thing to say, he was always able to make a situation exciting or find humor in something and make it funnier than it was. He could laugh at himself and was always able to make anyone feel great about themselves.

Zip is one of the only college friends I stayed in contact with. Often enough that I knew he was doing well. He loved his brothers and was proud that he was able to make some good business moves with them. There was always hoops for Steve. He was always running to play in a game or a tournament. In the 10 or so years he played in New York he made a name for himself. Zip was quietly becoming a legend ball player in New York's leagues and tourneys. While everyone else approaching their 30s was falling off, Steve excelled. His game got better and so did his rep. He was NYC's version of White Chocolate. I was playing in a pick up game and I heard a couple of guys talking about this white kid who was tearing everyone up at this tourney. They were saying how he was so smooth and silky and then laughing at how he played as if he didn't know he was white. I asked, are you guys talking about Zipper? Of course the answer was yes.

Recently, I entered my company, Cornerstone, into a league at Basketball City and needed 2 players to round out the team. First call to Zip. Of course he was in. Tuesday nights he didn't have any other game that night so of course he was in. He also had a big man, Zulkie. It was the Tuesday before the Tuesday. Zip was coasting and dominating. He went for at least 40 of our 79 points, hit two 3 pointers in the last 20 seconds the 2nd one to tie the game with 3 seconds left, the whole time, smiling and laughing and making sure to include all his teammates in the victory. I watched in amazement, or rather I knew he wasn't going to let us down. I swear I knew he would find a way for us to win. And he did.

A part of me won't let go of the fact that I really think he's going to walk out of the rubble and dust himself off before the next game. I think he's just waiting for the fourth quarter and its just a matter of time before he's doing his thing on the court once again. I can only imagine how many people he is helping before he makes his move.

If I could see Steve now I would let him know, that as great a ball player that you were, you were a greater person, friend and spirit. You lived life every day and will forever be my inspiration.

I just spoke to a friend yesterday, my friend Bobbito who is in the Nike Rhythm commercial. He told me how Zip's team won a big summer tournament and in the final game he caught a dunk on some dude and the whole crowd fell out. He became legendary.

I will never be able to pick up a basketball without thinking about Zip. I can't imagine the gym without Zip. I can't imagine these tourneys without hearing legendary stories about Zip. I can't imagine tomorrow without Zip.

I can't imagine how much I am going to miss Zip.

http://www.basketballcity.com/newyork/adultleague/tuesdayeast/leading.html

Source: Rob Stone (rob@cornerstonepromotion.com)

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