Boyhood Dream Come True for Veteran Reporter
Mike Silver was a kid growing up in Los Angeles during the seventies, without an ABA team in sight. Few of the league’s games were televised nationally, and highlights were barely more visible. Yet, he developed a thing for Indiana Pacers forward Darnell Hillman. The high-flying dunks, the Afro … it all seemed the essence of cool to a kid from southern California.
Silver, born in 1965, is now a veteran NFL writer, working for Yahoo! Sports. He’s in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium and attended the Pacers’ game against Detroit on Friday. That afforded an opportunity to meet his boyhood hero, who now works in the Pacers’ front office.
Silver, of course, is no stranger to the celebrity athlete, having interviewed thousands of them over the years. But this seemed different.
“I’m kind of starstruck,” he said before the game. “I’ll try not to be a dork.”
Why the fascination with Hillman?
“He was the iconic dunker,” Silver said. “Everybody knew Dr. J (Julius Erving), but the real basketball people knew that if you had to pick one dunker, Darnell Hillman was the guy. Same thing with the hair. He had the greatest hair in the world. From what ABA highlights we got to see … it was the cool, alternative league. If you had to pick a symbol of that, it was Darnell Hillman. He played above the rim, tall and long before his time when there weren’t a lot of guys who played like that. He just made basketball cool.
“If Dr. J was Nike, Darnell Hillman was Puma. If Dr. J was Led Zeppelin, Darnell Hillman was Duane Allman.”
Silver and Hillman met at halftime. Hillman’s hair is shorter and grayer and nobody talks about his vertical any longer, but they had a long conversation. It apparently went well, judging from the text Silver sent to Eddie White, the Pacers’ director of corporate communications, who arranged the meeting.
It read: “Dude! That was amazing.”