May 29, 1985
WEDMAN'S WAY WAS PAVED
He is a basketball player in silhouette. The sun is setting at an angle behind the backboard, making you wonder how long he has been working and how much longer he is going to stay. There are ovations and excitement in his head, perhaps, but he is alone with the sound and the feel of the ball.
He is a driveway guy. A picture.
"You spent a lot of time like that?" Scott Wedman is asked.
"Oh, yes," he replies.
His basketball is the solitary game. The rural game. There is no blaster box parked on the side of an inner-city playground, no mingling of kids choosing up sides, then fighting to maintain their places on the court. There is a more gentle song here. The ball going through the net again and again. Heavy breathing after driving past imagined defenders. Repetition. The sound of a storm door opening. Someone yelling that supper is on the table.
Roots are roots. They cannot be denied.
"Where'd you grow up?" Scott Wedman is asked.
"A lot of places," he says. "Mostly Colorado, when I was going to high school."
"But we always spent our summers at my grandparents' place. They had a big farm."
"Where was that?"
Kansas. Yes, Kansas. That is the look of the driveway guy's game. Stretches of farmland. Good food. Kansas. He is in the NBA and working in the televised frenzy of these final playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers, but traces of Kansas still can be seen. Even in the middle of all that. Kansas. Colorado. Clean air. Room. Jump shots.
The action spins and spins and suddenly Scott Wedman is alone. He goes through the patterned rhythms of all those afternoons, all those mornings, all those days. Jump shots. How far is far? Distance doesn't seem to matter. Nothing seems to matter. The rhythm is there. The stroke is the same. Jump shots.
"In Colorado," he says, "the basket was mounted over the garage door. Every now and then, I'd break a window. My father would come home, find the broken window and ask what happened. I'd tell him I was shooting and I shot one short. He never complained. If I'd been fooling around, maybe thrown a rock through the window, he'd be mad. Playing basketball? There'd be a new window in the morning. Nothing said.
"In the winter, our neighbor would see me when he came home from work," Scott Wedman says. "It would have been snowing and I'd have shoveled off the court. He'd look at me, out there in the driveway, and just shake his head.
"There's something relaxing about shooting a basketball," Scott Wedman says. "It's just you. You don't have to see how you've done. The reward is there if you've done it right. The ball goes through the basket."
He may have had trouble finding a place in the lineup in his three years with the Celtics, his Kansas mostly kept behind Larry Bird's taller and more diversified Indiana, but there never has been a question about the one thing he does best. He is a shooter's shooter. He will shoot jump shots against the world.
The shot has been his athletic passport. The shot. He has an older brother, Mike, "the athlete in the family," who was a pole vaulter and decathlete at the University of Colorado. Mike Wedman went to college on an assembled number of heights and times. Scott Wedman went to the same college on the shot. College and beyond.
"I remember when my brother got an athletic scholarship," the driveway guy says. "My father said, 'Well, that's great. Now we'll only have to pay for Scott's education.' I always have remembered that. I never let my father forget it."
The family was back in Kansas on Monday. Scott Wedman's father now owns a Ford dealership in Harper, Kan., and both sets of grandparents still live in the town. Memorial Day is a traditional family weekend. The Wedmans ran a family reunion at City Park on Sunday. The Clements, on Scott Wedman's mother's side, ran a reunion on Monday. A lot of the same people were at both reunions. The Monday reunion ended early.
"My grandmother invited a lot of people back to the house to watch the game," Scott Wedman says. "She has the satellite dish. There were a lot of people there, and I guess there was a lot of yelling. That's what my father said, anyway, when he called."
The reason for the yelling was obvious. On Monday, the driveway guy's shot worked better than it ever has worked. In the first game of these NBA finals, he took 11 shots and made all 11 in the Celtics' 148-114 win. He was perfect. No one in NBA history ever has done what he did. Eleven shots. Eleven baskets. Four of them from behind the 22-foot, three-point circle. Perfect. A perfect day. Even if you were shooting in your driveway.
"Funny, I was stopped at a light on the way home Monday," Scott Wedman says. "There was a playground and I saw a lot of kids out there, playing basketball. I remembered that. How you'd watch a big game on television, then go out and just play for three hours straight. I remembered that."
"Did you think about going out there to join the kids?" he is asked. "They would have gone crazy."
"You know, I did think about it," he says. "I really did. Maybe next time."