A few years ago, a rapper went to the police in New York and confessed to a 16-year-old crime. At first, the cops didn’t take him seriously. He went back to the police weeks later and confessed again. This time the cops looked it up and found the rapper was telling the truth. The rapper got hit with a 2nd degree murder conviction and is now doing 15 years in prison.
I remember being on Twitter shortly after the news of that broke. One of my favorite rappers, a guy named Styles P, tweeted (I’m paraphrasing) that there are some stories that people don’t need to know. Some stories need to go with you to the grave.
I like that. It’s a good way to reconcile stuff with ourselves and be at peace with our actions. Or, depending how you look at it, a good way to quiet our conscience. To each his own.
If you read my stuff, listen to my podcast, or have ever heard me speak in public, you know I have a lot of stories. Basketball stories. Business stories. Dating stories. Funny stories. Serious stories. What you don’t know if that I have a lot of other stories that I won’t ever tell.
Ironically, those untold stories are the only reason you know my name.
If you read Buy A Game, you know I was recruited from one college to another in the summer after my freshman year. I was literally in the right place at the right time for that to happen. I was only in that specific location because of a certain chain of events.
In Philadelphia, at least back in 2001, and at least when it came to the beat up Chevrolet I was driving, cops seemed to be everywhere. Cops who were just looking for a resin to pull people over and check their paperwork. Maybe that was just my perception because I was purposely trying to avoid cops.
In Pennsylvania then (someone can tell me if this is still how it is), you had to have two stickers on the bottom left corner of your windshield, indicating that your car had passed state inspections. The stickers had to be renewed yearly and cost about $100 total. I was a broke college student; my stickers were expired. My car was too beat up to pass inspection even if I’d had the money to pay for them.
Technically, a cop could have your car towed away and impounded on the spot for his offense.
One morning on my way to the Penn State Abington campus, I stopped at the Superfresh market at Cedarbrook Mall. On my way through the parking lot, I passed a police car going the other way. Me and the officer made eye contact. It was almost as if he could see into my thoughts at that very moment. Or maybe it was just the fear and nervousness in my eyes. I parked and hurried out of my car and into the store as quickly as possible.
I paid for my stuff and stood at the large window at the front of the Superfresh. I eyed my car in the large parking lot. Right across from my car… was the police car. I immediately knew the mofo was waiting for me. He had probably run my plates and knew my shit was not even close to legal.
I couldn’t avoid him. This was 2001. No Uber to call. I had to get to school. I had basketball practice that day. I decided to use the surrender tactic with the cop: bow to his power and beg for mercy.
He hopped out of his car as soon as I unlocked my doors. I explained my situation, how I was broke and couldn’t yet get the car up to legal-to-drive status. I was very polite and submissive to the officer. And he was nice in return (take note of this!). He told me I needed to get it fixed ASAP, and if he saw me and my car again he would be forced to tow it away.
I thanked him, and never drove to that Superfresh again.
That’s not the criminal part. But you needed the context.
Part of my car being beat up was the nice-sized crack in my windshield. I would never get a state inspection sticker with a cracked windshield. It cost $127 to get fixed. $127 that I didn’t have.
I had been working at a hat store. I switched to working at a movie theatre. In between those jobs, I tried CutCo Knives until I found out that I was expected to purchase my own set of knives for $700.
I was broke AF and needed to be un-broke, and it needed to happen fast.
Someone introduced me to a way to make more money, a lot more money, and we could make it fast. We did it together and it worked. It really worked. We used to compete to see who could make the most each day and brag about it. One day I was in the mall with a friend and I needed cash. I took money out of the ATM. The machine gave me all 20 dollar bills. My friend commented at how thick the money stack looked when the ATM dispensed it.
I was 19, living rent-free at home, played on my college basketball team, had my own car to drive and now had money in my pocket. I’m Rich Bitch!!
I bought a bunch of NBA and NFL jerseys (this was when jerseys were THE thing to wear). I had a new one to wear for every day of a month. I had a weekly rotation of Guess? jeans. I bought sneakers. Jordan 11s. Nike Flightposites. Shox BB4s. The Kobe Adidas that were shaped like the Audi A4. Bo Jacksons. T-Mac Adidas. A lot of others that I don’t even remember. Oh, and I had each of these the very day they came out. There were no lines at the sneaker store back then either. Mainstream sneaker fiending/ collecting was still 10+ years away.
Oh, my car: I got the windshield fixed. The serviceman came to my (parents) house to replace the windshield right on the spot. I went outside to talk to the guy and he started working. He told me it would take about an hour and he’d let me know when he was done. My mother was home at the time it happened. She’d noticed the clothes and sneakers and now the windshield guy. She had questions.
“Where are you getting all this money?!”
I told her it was all the hours I was working at my job. She accepted my answer — she had no choice — but I knew she didn’t believe me. Shit, I didn’t believe me.
She — and you, to this point — probably thought I was selling drugs.
One day mom confronted me directly in front of dad. I stuck to my story. Mom suggested that she check my car then, to prove it. Before we could go outside though, dad intervened. Whatever I was doing, he said, I would be fully responsible for whatever happened and I shouldn’t expect help from them if things go wrong. I told him I was Ok with that.
We never checked my car. Mom wasn’t happy about that we didn’t.
I wasn’t selling drugs. But it damn sure wasn’t all the hours at my job that were producing the money.
I eventually got a new (used, but new to me) car. I paid for it in cash — literal cash, not a debit card or check. The day I got it, I had an afternoon basketball game at Abington. It was my best performance of my freshman season. The next day, I got a CD changer installed in the trunk of my new car. The first CD I played was N.O.R.E. by Noreaga. Banned From TV.
If you know the song, you know how that knocked in a car when the sound system was right.
I worked at CVS that summer. One of my coworkers had a marijuana connect and was very willing to put me on. We never did business. I had friends who smoked weed, and Marijuana just didn’t seem like a big-money product to me. Not worth the risk.
A few days after that decision, I met the coach who recruited me to Penn State Altoona. I was on campus, in the summer (I wasn’t taking summer classes), working on my Game the day we met. I’d driven there in my new car, the car I was not afraid to drive past police.
At Altoona, I had teammates who knew people who played overseas basketball. Those teammates introduced me to a new concept for playing pro basketball called an “exposure camp.” I had never heard of such a thing.
And now we’re here.
I googled the Pennsylvania statute of limitations on certain crimes before writing this. I’m safe.
I left a lot out of this story. There is a lot of gray space. You could read this and have 73 questions to fill in the gaps. Those gaps will remain gaps and those questions won’t be answered. Some stories, the details at least, have to go with you to the grave. I didn’t kill or harm anyone. My conscience is clear. Or maybe it isn’t, and I’m just saying that to convince myself.
You’ll never know.