My Story About Growing Up With Jordan Farmar
My Story About Growing Up With Jordan Farmar
A story about growing up with an eventual NBA champion.
I met Jordan when I was eight years old. It was the inaugural season of the Jr Lakers youth basketball program at the Mid-Valley YMCA in Van Nuys, an ethnic suburb in Los Angeles. It was my first season playing basketball, organized or otherwise.
After a ‘tryout’ (everyone gets drafted), I was drafted by Coach Reggie. His son, Julian and Jordan Farmar were on this team. I’d go on the play with/against these dudes every season (3 seasons a year) until I was twelve and started to get ready for high school. Julian was a prodigy point guard, albeit severely undersized and Jordan was our scoring, slashing guard. I was the power forward/center given my relative tall stature at the time. In that inaugural season, I later found out that both Julian and Jordan were only seven, and were bending the rules. However, they were both very good for their age. We had a great season that year competing in the 8-10yr old age group.
We made it to the regional-valley finals. We came within a one point overtime loss from playing for the city Championship at the great western forum. It was late in overtime and we needed to intentionally foul to stop the clock. Being new to the game, I guess I was a bit too physical and the ref called an ‘intentional foul’ violation which was the equivalent of a flagrant 1. So they got two shots and the ball.
Up to this point I had never experienced a technical foul situation and had to be told where to stand on the court. Needless to say I felt like I really f**ked up to the point where I can’t even stand near the dude while he shoots his free throws. Yikes. I’ll never forget standing at half court with the rest of my teammates when Jordan turns and says to me, ‘if we lose this game I’m going to kill you’.
Up until this moment, sports had never been more than recreational fun. In this moment I realized the game was no longer a game. I’m involved in some serious sh*t. Real stakes and real emotions. Ironically it was after this loss that I really fell in love with basketball, and the Lakers in general. I never considered myself a Lakers fan because of their success, but more-so because they were our big brother team. This was the roster that year, Anthony Peeler was my favorite player at the time. I loved his shooting. I battled with and against Jordan and Julian until we were ten.
Coach Reggie wanted to put together a team on the ARC level. It was the summer of the 96. My mom couldn’t afford neither the cost of YMCA Summer Camp and also the summer league basketball team. Reggie was gracious enough to find funding so that I could be part of the team pro bono. The name of the team was ‘Total Package’. It was a collection of the San Fernando Valley’s top young talent. We were a wrecking crew locally, beating locals by 40-50 points. We would spend afternoons having the entire gym to ourselves for 3 hours and battle 1-on-1. I was bigger and more physically dominant so I would win most games, though it was always super close. But I will tell you guys this: dude was tenacious and stubborn as hell. He would flagrant foul me to stop the game, borderline bend the rules to keep the game going. Again, I was bigger, but it was daily war fare with this dude. Even at 10-years old. Easily the most competitive dude I ever played with. Our heads were big. It was 1996, Jordan was dominating the league and we were dominating LA.
Just when our heads were biggest, we were challenged by our coaches to face the CAVS. I don’t know who they were or where they came from, but they were the most dominant team in the area from 1994-2000. We took them on and quickly realized our 5-2” point guard and 5-7 center wouldn’t get it done against their 5-8-10” point guards and 6’+ forwards and centers. Lol it was comical. I’ll never forget the halftime score. 42-1. 1! I’m shamefully proud to say that I scored that one point off of a 1/2 trip to the line. After the game there were tears and there was minor confrontations as infighting as our team found out we weren’t as good as we thought, and that giant athletic freaks lurk.
Flash forward two years. We’ve moved on to high school. Haven’t played with or against each other in 3 years (last time being 12yrs old). It was the summer of 2001, he was going into his sophomore year and I was entering my junior year. My school hosted the summer league. We played Jordan and his team twice. Both time it was about same stats: I put up 16-18 pts to his 4-6 points. At the time I felt good about where I was. We were both 16. We were both just starting to dunk the ball in warmups, and I felt like I was keeping pace with him, although he did gain an inch and a half of me.
That was the last time i faced him in high school. Next thing I know he is the local phenom, leading the Taft High School to uncharted territory averaging 30+ ppg. It was unreal. I would read news articles of him hitting half court buzzer beater to win the game. I didn’t understand how. I still don’t understand how he became so dominant so quickly…
Then he went to UCLA. And the team way over-performed (not a slight, but he was at the right place at the right time, and was the right dude for the job) and led UCLA to the championship game.
Then he gets drafted by the Lakers due to his championship DNA and our need for a backup point guard with poise.
He went on to win two championships as a key contributor off the bench.
Even though he didn’t have the longest tenure in the NBA, he has got it all man. He grew up playing for the Jr Lakers, UCLA, then drafted by the Sr Lakers lol and won two rings next to the Mamba. Can’t beat that.
Meanwhile I broke my left ankle three times in high school trying to make it.
Just happy to say I know someone who got to the higher levels and that I feel like I was once on a similar trajectory.
Ironically, knowing Jordan, he’s busting his own balls for not being an all-time great. I just hope he knows how proud we are of him, the kids that he grew up with. Can’t ask for a better story.
If you see this, big ups from your boy Matt Foster at the Mid-Valley YMCA. In a way your success validates all of us and what we stood for.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter @MattyJFoster12