By Kenny Anderson, a former 14-year NBA veteran whose column below was featured on SportsBlog.com, a content partner of the NBPA that focuses on first-person stories with pro athletes
This is a tough time of year for me. My emotions are all over the place. While I enjoy spending Christmas at home in Florida with my wife and kids, I really miss my Mother during this time of the year. I mean, I always miss her, but it’s more pronounced during the holiday season.
When I was growing up, we struggled. And after I made it to the NBA, I was able to take care of and provide for my Mother. She lived carefree for 20 years. Of course I do that for my kids now, but it’s different because I’ve always been able to provide for them. I miss being able to spend Christmas with my Mom and give to her and make her happy. After all we went through and all she did for me, nobody deserved to be happy more than she did.
My first Christmas in the league stands out to me as being very special because I bought my Mother a car. My motivation to make it in the league was always so that I could take care of my family. And that Christmas I was able to buy my Mother whatever she wanted. It felt really good. And one year I sent her and her best friend on a trip to Paris for Christmas and New Year’s. They had a ball. I couldn’t be with her for the holiday because I was in the league, but I was able to give her exactly what she wanted.
When you’re playing in the league, you’re rarely home with your family on Christmas. You’re either playing or traveling. Come to think of it, I guess I was never on great teams because I never played on Christmas Day! But if you don’t play on the 25th, then you’re usually playing on the 26th, which means you’re traveling Christmas night.
I remember making sure I sent out all my gifts in time for my family to receive them. And then of course I’d call them on Christmas. I was thankful for the holidays when I was playing, but we didn’t really have time to celebrate them. I’ve been out 10 years now, so I’ve been able to spend those days with my family.
I make it a priority to give back to kids who are less fortunate during holiday time. I do whatever I can to make someone happy. Whether that means sending a signed basketball to a fan or giving out some toys, I do whatever I can. I’m appreciative of the life that I’ve had as far as being in the position to provide for my family and friends.
One Christmas I had as a kid made a real impact and continues to remind me of why it’s so important to give back. I was a little kid and my Mom just couldn’t afford to buy presents. I remember crying my lungs out. She couldn’t afford to get me a present on Christmas Day, but I remember she was able to get some things for me on January 7th. I literally remember the exact date.
As a result of holidays like that one, I want to do whatever I can for other kids who are in that situation. You hear about so many parents who can’t afford to give presents to their kids. There’s not so much I can do about it – I can’t save the world – but it really bothers me and definitely hits home. It hurts my heart. I think all kids should wake up to at least one gift. Society has made Christmas a time of giving and receiving, especially for kids. And not all parents can do that. A lot of people are just trying to put food on the table.
This is a time to share with others and appreciate your loved ones. And the small things – like calling someone to say Merry Christmas – are what matter. That’s what I really appreciate, especially when you’re hearing from an old friend or former teammate or from people who were in my life when I was younger.
I used to get handmade cards from little kids, and I still have them. That right there is very special to me because they thought about me and took the time to make something for me. I kept all that stuff! I appreciate anything on Christmas – a card, a phone call, a pair of slippers. It’s a pretty low-key day in our family. We stay home, eat and watch the NBA games. I don’t move much on Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the fans out there! Enjoy your family and appreciate your time with them. I’ve lost a lot of friends over the past year, including many former NBA players, and it’s a reminder to appreciate your life. I don’t know who said this, but it’s a quote that has always stuck with me: “There’s somebody out there who would love your bad days.” I’ve always taken that to heart. Love your family, laugh, eat a lot and watch a lot of NBA games!
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