Watching him shoot a basketball was like watching a ballerina twirl. I hadn't seen him in person for twenty two years. He won our high school a city title his senior year, 1991. Well, there were other players on the court with him, of course, but they wouldn't have gotten very far without him. We were up all night the night of the championship game – I was a skinny little sophomore and a fan of the game – and that triumphant night is one of my favorite memories.
I followed his college career as a two guard at St. Joe's, spotting up beyond the arc time and time again. Thought maybe he'd make it as a pro, but it wasn't to be, and I hadn't heard a peep about him since.
"Ricky Reynolds." I stuck out my hand. "You probably don't remember me. Arnie Thompson. I was two years behind you at North."
"Sure, Arnie, how are you?" I knew he didn't actually remember me, but he pretended without any sign of pretension.
"I'm okay, thanks." I noticed for the first time a little girl by his side, presumably his daughter. "And who is this?"
"I'm Chrissy. Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too. I used to go to your dad's basketball games in high school. He was the best player in the city."
She smiled at me, as did her father.
"Shame about North getting shut down," he said.
"Yeah, sure is."
"Lot of good memories in those halls."
"For me too."
"I guess it'll be all charter schools now. The city just can't seem to fund its public schools." He motioned toward Chrissy. "Her mom and I wanna stay in the city, though, whatever it takes."
"Glad to hear it."
"Well, it was nice to see you, Arnie, take care man."
He shook my hand and we went our separate ways. As I walked away, I thought about these new charter schools. Seemed like they, with their lotteries and sibling preference and long hours and strict rules, were the city's answer to a bankrupt district. The charters' programs were by most accounts effective, but there was something about a neighborhood public school they couldn't replicate, like watching the kid you grew up with hit five straight fifteen footers to defeat the school team from the next neighborhood over.