For reasons that don’t make any kind of geographical or otherwise rational sense, I largely grew up a Miami Heat fan. As a DC resident, I liked the Bullets, but in my younger days the franchise seemed content to trade away future all-stars and turn its team into some sort of carnival sideshow. The Heat had drive. Passion. The debonair genius of Pat Riley. Zo’s roar. Tim’s crossover. And the unmistakable Majerle.
Thunder Dan, by the time I knew him, kept it pretty low to the ground. A scrappy rebounder and authoritative finisher in his younger days with the Suns (the nickname actually refers to his highlight-reel dunking ability), Majerle 2.0 was a cool, confident 3-point specialist. His main purpose was to abuse defenses who had devoted an extra man to Hardaway, Mourning, or Mashburn, each one of whom was more than happy to dish out to Majerle for an open 3. He would inevitably knock it down, bringing about wild cheers from the Heat faithful and a subtle grin for Thunder Dan as he looked at the hapless opposing bench, shaking his head without displacing a hair in his well-cropped coif.
That stroke was honed in Traverse City, Michigan, but it speaks for the corn fields of Nebraska, the summer gym at Hickory High, the countless reps of the middle-aged guy at the Y who looks like, talks like, and may well be your dad, but can take you young punks to school once he stretches and inserts his orthotics.
And so the legend of Thunder Dan rolls on, and let it be a lesson. Once you’ve put that time in, it doesn’t just go away. Sure, some days you might be rusty. Your back might ache. But when you get it going again, there’s no need to act surprised. How could you be? You knew it was in you. You’ve got a lifetime of reps at putting that ball in the hoop. So you calmly smooth your tie, pick up your coffee and cede the court. Top that, fellas.
What are your lasting memories of Dan the Man? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.