It’s that other tale, sometimes told, that I’ll always find more compelling than the one traditionally summarized in an NBA Boxscore. From Rick Telander and Darcy Frey, to Arthur Agee and William Gates, that hoop dreams story personified is one that will never sound repetitive to me. When truly realized, and put on display for all of us to see, however long that moment lasts, its something that will always move me. Not because I can specifically relate, or that my five foot eight inch frame ever allowed me to personally leap up and touch anything higher than that box connecting the rim to the backboard either. But because there’s always something within that basketball story, every time a new chapter’s written, that inspires us all to continuing dreaming ourselves. No matter who we are, or what those dreams entail.
Which is why I appreciate what Lester Hudson did not just last night, but this whole weekend. When the camera followed Hudson to the Cavaliers’ sidelines late in regulation on Sunday against the Nets, and we saw him leap up to celebrate his fourth quarter of basketball wizardry with Manny Harris, I could only imagine the emotions he was feeling. About seven years ago, Lester first followed his hoop dreams to Southwest Tennessee Community College. He then moved on from there to the Ohio Valley Conference, and played well as guy nobody really heard of for the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks. He’d then play so well that he’d eventually become that Conference’s Player of the Year, and go on to be drafted late in the second round by the Boston Celtics in 2009. If his journey from college basketball anonymity to the most storied franchise in NBA history ended there, it would be hard to not deem such a run ultimately successful.
He’d then play for, and be cut by, three NBA teams from there however, and as recently as this year he was a member of the Chinesse Basketball Association. He signed with the Guangdong Southern Tigers in January of 2011, and then a team named Quindago DoubleStar in November. As opposed to other American players like JR Smith, Wilson Chandler, and Kenyon Martin, he wasn’t playing in China because of the NBA Lockout. He was playing one million miles away from his native Memphis, Tennessee because it was the only place that would pay him to do so. On March 30th, he then signed a 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and last night he’d score 26 points in 29 minutes against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets. The three pointer he hit from the corner with under one second to play in regulation would be enough to not only extend that game for his new team, but extend the very dreams that got him there in the first place.
I don’t know what the future holds for Lester Hudson and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m not sure he’s a long-term piece, but I am sure he isn’t a guy that should be simply dismissed at this point either. In his last two NBA games, he’s averaged 24.5 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists in 30.5 minutes of work. He helped this short-handed group to a win in Toronto on Friday, and did everything he could to do the same last night in New Jersey too. In the process he’s forced people to take notice of not only who he is, or what he can do on an NBA floor, but what he overcame to get there. He grew up in one of the roughest areas of Memphis, made mistakes common to those growing up in similar circumstances, and would be 24-years old when registered a quadruple double as a junior in college. For at least one night on Sunday though, everything that happened to Lester Hudson before he arrived on that NBA stage made everything he did that much more special while on it. He gave not only himself, but everybody who watched, a reason to believe in the Legend of Lester Hudson. As well as a reason to keep dreaming ourselves all the same.