One moment, the boy was smiling. Here was Kyle Lowry inches from him. A little bonus, the NBA championship trophy was inside the Hank Gathers Recreation Center, at Andre Lane Jr.’s fingertips, Lowry holding it out so Andre Lane Jr. and his younger brother Aidan could grab hold of it, too.
Hold on … If you think meeting Lowry was no big deal for a 10-year-old standing inside a gym in North Philadelphia, you weren’t there.
The brothers had been with their mother at the other end of the gym, over by the stage, as she handed out hoagies to children who had come to the rec center, to get a backpack and the hoagie and maybe their own photo with Lowry
Andre wanted to get over to the other corner of the gym, but he was a touch shy to do it on his own. His mother mentioned something to one of the event organizers, who brought the two brothers over to Lowry. One second Andre was smiling, then he lost it for a moment, bending over and rubbing his right eye with his hand as Lowry gave him a T-shirt and started putting the trophy in his hands
Was it that trophy that got him, or Lowry?
“Lowry,’’ Andre said.
“He knows everything about sports,’’ his mother said.
““How he plays the game,’’ Andre said of his particular appreciation of Lowry. “He’s small. But he plays like Iverson.”
A sweet moment. Lowry had grabbed his own phone out of his pocket for another photo, a keepsake for himself of him with the two boys.
The first time Lowry himself was in this gym?
“When I was playing fifth-grade basketball,’’ Lowry said. “I just knew the baskets were a little higher when I was that small.”
If hockey players could bring the Stanley Cup to their hometowns, why not North Philadelphia for the NBA’s version, the Larry O’Brien trophy, named for a former commissioner.
First stop, 25th and Diamond, then over to 21st and Cecil B. Moore. Lowry presented checks at both rec centers. (Safe to say they’ll make use of the $15,000 at each place.)
If the Cecil B. Moore center was his first home, “we were his home away from home,’’ said Jimmy Richardson, who runs the Gathers center. (Richardson was part of some special Ben Franklin High teams in the ‘80s, playing with his cousin Pooh.)
Richardson could remember games when Lowry was a young guy where the standing-room crowds were so packed in you couldn’t see the baseline. “People had to watch from the hallway.”
Right there, under a basket, Lowry went down, August before his freshman year at Villanova.
“Oh man, right about here,’’ Lowry said, underneath that basket “Up step. Whap. Torn ACL.’
Lowry had to wait until January to make his Villanova debut, still faster than anyone expected after the injury.
“From here to the hospital,’’ Richardson said. “He wound up getting a bionic knee.”
So much history in this place. Murals of Dawn Staley and the late Hank Gathers himself. In walked former Temple star Mark Tyndale. Derrick Gathers, Hank’s brother, said he remembered seeing Lowry in there as a little guy.