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How a sports video game helped shape part of my relationship with my dad

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Nintendo 64 Photo by Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

My dad and I don’t agree on many things when it comes to sports fandom. My dad is a diehard Dodgers fan while I have always been a Red Sox fan. It goes beyond baseball, as we each share different sides of the Celtics/Lakers rivalry and the Patriots/Jets rivalry. At least we both share our fanhood of the Boston Bruins.

However, despite our differences in fan allegiance, I wouldn't be the sports fan I am today without my dad. I learned about reading everything I could in preparation for a new season from him. I learned how to obsessively pour over box scores to pull out interesting information from him. To this day I still buy a physical copy of at least one magazine’s baseball preview issue just like my dad has for the last few decades.

Outside of following sports, my other most prominent hobby is playing video games. Wow, another person who likes sports and video games. How unique! I know, but I can’t help that I’m basic.

Anyway, I’ve been playing video games for the better part of three decades now. Although I dabbled with the Nintendo and Super Nintendo at friends’ houses, my first console was a Nintendo 64. My parents gave me the system along with two games. The first was the platforming masterpiece Super Mario 64, which just about anyone who had an N64 owned. The second game was Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside.

Video games are something I usually enjoy as a solo activity. I’m not a big shared world fan and playing online isn’t usually my route. However, NBA Courtside is a game I best remember for playing with someone else: my dad.

Like many sports simulation games before and since, NBA Courtside featured a season mode in which you could pick a team, play out the schedule and try to win an NBA championship. My dad and I decided to start a season together. We chose the San Antonio Spurs. I’m a little foggy as to why we picked the Spurs, but my best guess is the Celtics were pretty awful, Michael Jordan wasn’t in the game and I always liked David Robinson.

After selecting the Spurs, my dad and I played out the regular season over several weeks. We would play head-to-head, with me as the Spurs and my dad taking control of whichever team was on the calendar next. Somehow, if you can believe it, the Spurs made the playoffs. Do I think my dad let me, an nine-year-old child at the time, win? Well probably, but that’s beside the point.

The dream season for the Spurs continued through the playoffs and ended with an NBA Finals matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. We only played one-game series, so the playoffs went by pretty quickly, but I remember being legitimately excited and a bit nervous the day my dad said we would play the title game. I remember drawing out the Spurs’ and Bucks’ logos as best I could in my notebook at school all day, focusing entirely on what to that point seemed like the most important sporting event of my life.

I don’t remember all the details of the game, but I’m pretty sure the Spurs prevailed. What I do remember is the time I got to spend with my dad and how a video game helped make that possible.

There have, of course, been plenty of other memories and moments that I’ve shared with my dad. Some of them are sports-related and some of them are more real life related. However, I will always hold onto the memories of that virtual Spurs season and the time I got to spend with my dad during it.