It’s hard to explain my obsession with the NBA. I wish I could say it has lessoned since I wrote Hoop Lore, but it has only increased. I spent three years researching the history of the sport for that book, and while I have yet to receive much in the line of monetary rewards for that effort, I don’t regret it as it was truly a labor of love. I guess it’s a similar thing as with my interest in Elvis. Either you get it or you don’t. For those fellow NBA fans who do get it, I have created this section that includes pages with great photos, links, and space for you to share your thoughts and ideas with other basketball fanatics.
Most iinformation directly related to Hoop Lore appears on the subpage, titled (are you ready?) About Hoop Lore. But the article that follows here, via an interview from the Milwaukee Buck’s staff on NBA.com, does a pretty good job of explaining how I got hooked on this stuff in the first place. I hope you enjoy reading it and exploring the subpages of this section.
Author’s Love Of NBA Started With The Bucks
July 16, 2007
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com
If Hollywood hadn’t claimed first dibs on “The Accidental Tourist,” the title would have been an ideal one for the saga of Connie Kirchberg’s discovery of professional basketball and how the sport has captivated her for nearly 40 years.
And the Milwaukee Bucks play a prominent role in her tale.
Kirchberg, a Wisconsin native who now resides in Fresno, Calif., has not written her memoirs on basketball, but a little over two months ago, she did have her second book published: “Hoop Lore: A History of the National Basketball Association.”
Her project might never have materialized, though, if she hadn’t stashed a radio in an upstairs bedroom of her grandmother’s North Fond du Lac home and turned it on late one night back in the late 1960s.
Kirchberg, who was 12 years old at the time, remembers what happened next like it took place yesterday.
“I wanted to listen to some music, and I was tuning in to ‘Countdown with Casey Kasem,’” Kirchberg recalled. “But the Bucks broadcast had gone into overtime and was on that channel in its place.
“All it took was a few minutes of listening to Eddie Doucette (who became an icon as the Bucks’ play-by-play announcer), and I was hooked.”
Beginning that night, Kirchberg developed into a passionate NBA fan. After attending North Fond du Lac High School and the University of Wisconsin extension in Fond du Lac, she left America’s Dairyland at age 20 for the Pacific Northwest, and spent more than two decades there before moving to Fresno five years ago.
Over those years, she became an avid follower of the Seattle Super Sonics, the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. But she has NBA Pass, and she still keeps tabs on the Bucks, too. The memories they gave her during her teens were indelible ones.
Doucette, with his dynamic flair for describing the action and his creative nicknames for the players, made quite an impression on her.
“Of all the teams I’ve followed, Eddie’s still my favorite announcer,” Kirchberg said. “He had that colorful way of calling a game. And, of course, there was Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). Who else could do that skyhook like he could?”
While doing research for her book, Kirchberg discovered that Abdul-Jabbar, whom Milwaukee chose with the first pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, almost did not become a Buck.
“A lot of people don’t realize that Kareem was a breath away from going to the New York Nets (of the American Basketball Association),” she said. “That story is in my book.
“As Bob Dandridge (whom the Bucks drafted along with Abdul-Jabbar in 1969) developed, he and Kareem became such a great duo. Later on, they got Oscar (Robertson). They had so many good players during those years.”
Kirchberg remembers making the one-hour drive from Fond du Lac to see about 12 Bucks games at the MECCA Arena.
“Sometimes they’d have buses to the games from Fond du Lac,” she said. “Later on, when I got older, I drove down with friends. We had to cope with the weather. I remember going through a blizzard one time, but we made it.
“Not all of the games were televised, and some didn’t come in, but I do remember watching games on our fuzzy, black-and-white TV,” she said. “I’m glad we had an antenna on the roof.”
Kirchberg, of course, lists the Bucks’ NBA championship conquest of 1971 among her favorite memories of the team, along with “their rivalry with the Celtics and all the great playoff games they played.”
Not all of her Bucks memories were fond ones.
“I remember them losing Kareem (when Abdul-Jabbar demanded a trade and the Bucks complied, sending him to the Lakers on June 16, 1975, with Walt Wesley in exchange for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, David Meyers, Junior Bridgeman and future considerations),” Kirchberg said. “I don’t think anyone has come close to him then or since. I consider Kareem and Bill Russell the two best centers in NBA history.”
Having experienced Abdul-Jabbar’s departure from Milwaukee would help ease Kirchberg’s pain years later when Shaquille O’Neal left the Lakers.
“I got used to the fact that when guys want to be traded, they want to be traded,” she said.
Kirchberg has followed the Bucks ever since leaving Wisconsin, but her interest in the team was stoked, if only for a short time, back on Feb. 20, 2003. On that day, Milwaukee acquired Gary Payton and Desmond Mason from the Super Sonics in exchange for Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Ronald Murray and a conditional draft pick.
“I started following the Bucks more closely again when Gary Payton arrived, since he was one of my favorites during his years in Seattle,” she said.
Payton played just 28 games for Milwaukee in 2003 before taking the free-agent route out of town.
As she researched her book, Kirchberg spent countless hours in local libraries and scouring the Internet.
“I went all the way back into the early 1950s newspaper archives,” she said. “Those helped me the most, because those were the only first-hand accounts I had to rely on.”
Kirchberg did enough networking to obtain photographs for her book from the Basketball Hall of Fame and from the NBA and Getty Images.
“Jim Barnett (a former San Francisco Warrior who entered the broadcast booth with Golden State after his playing days) was a nice guy,” she said. “He helped me out a lot, writing the foreword and doing some promotions.”
Kirchberg’s “home team” includes husband Jody, who owns Granite Artwork, a granite and marble outlet in Fresno; and daughter Katie, who graduated from the University of Southern California last year and became her publicist. The Kirchbergs’ married daughter, Carrie Fox, is a teacher in the San Francisco Bay area.
“Hoop Lore: A History of the National Basketball Association” is Kirchberg’s second book published by McFarland & Company Publishers of North Carolina. It is available at Fig Garden Books and online outlets.
Coincidentally enough, Kirchberg’s first book was “Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and the American Dream,” published in 1999. So 30 years after the Milwaukee Bucks took the place of Casey Kasem on a cold winter’s night, Connie Kirchberg followed Elvis’ act with a venture into NBA history.
It seems the transition game has treated her well.
To read some reviews and excerpts from Hoop Lore: A History of the National Basketball Association, click on the link to my Comcast site.