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Dear Alonzo...

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What’s up, Zo?

I just finished watching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tough loss, eh? It really looked like you guys had the champs down and out. I was rooting for you guys. Anything to give us five months without “DEEEEETRROOOIT BASKET-BALL!” I guess you can’t count on Damon Jones for anything.

I saw you on the sidelines, waving those towels like a Lakers-era Jon Barry and it got me to thinking: What happened to you?

Allow me to give you some background, Zo. You see, I’ve been down since Day One. You got some pub in SI back in your high school days and I jumped on the train. Followed you when you were the only high schooler invited to the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials. Bet you thought no one remembered that.

You took your act to Georgetown. Boy, how I hated Georgetown. But you made it bearable. Sure, I had to endure Dikembe Mutombo but it was worth it. Leading the nation in blocked shots as a freshman? That dominant senior season, right after Mutombo left? Oh, was that ever sweet. Plus, you graduated. That’s huge.

Charlotte took you right after the Diesel in 1992 and you got right to work, didn’t you? 21 and 10 in your rookie year. I caught flak that year in high school for backing you over Shaq. After all, you were more than a dunker. Haters recognized when your buzzer beater gave the Hornets a playoff win over the Celtics. Where was Shaq? Not in the playoffs, that’s for sure.

The moments continued as your career progressed. You always being a cornerstone of my fantasy team. Your trade to Miami in 1995. The night you dropped 50 on Washington. Defensive Player of the Year in 1999.

Then, the 2000-01 season. You missed the first 69 games due to a kidney disorder. That was tough. But you fought back. That warrior spirit shining through. You finished the season, playing the last 13 games and you were strong the next year, playing 75 games, dropping almost 16 and 8. That’s heart.

But the kidney disorder just wouldn’t go away, causing you to miss the 2002-03 season. You continued to work your butt off to get back to the NBA, seeing Sean Elliott as an example. That’s my boy!

The Nets took a chance and you did your thing. Maybe not at pre-kidney levels, but you were providing them with solid minutes. Then, you just couldn’t do it anymore. Kenyon Martin ripped you at practice. I had your back, though. It took a few years, but I got at him courtside one night.

So, this Vince Carter thing comes up. We loved him. But he didn’t love Toronto much anymore. And he wanted out. Rumours abound.

The trade comes down. December 17, 2004.

And where am I when I hear about the deal?

In the emergency ward with stomach pains. How’s that for a coincidence?

Now, here’s where the story gets twisted for me, Zo. Maybe you can help me out.

You immediately come out and say that you won’t report to the Raptors. OK, so you’re not healthy enough to play. I can live with that.

Well, that wasn’t the only reason you didn’t report. You wanted to play for a contender. After all, you’ve never won a title. Here’s the thing, Zo. Warriors don’t walk out on their team, their army.

But you played hardball and got the Raptors to buy out your contract. Sure, it hurts their cap situation and it cost them $10 million but it got an unhealthy player off their roster, I guess.

That was February 11, 2005.

Three weeks later, you’re in Miami, signing a one-year deal with the Heat and ready to play basketball. Well, not quite yet. It did take you a while to get into the swing of things.

There you were, in your Heat uniform, for the world to see. It made me sick.

Then came the playoffs. And it finally hit home.

We got screwed.

You played us for chumps, Zo. Not just Raptors fans, but everyone who respected you for the way you played the game, the way you fought back from a kidney transplant.

You see, Zo, you built up a lot of goodwill over your career. Your tireless charity work. I commend that. Coming back from a kidney transplant? Damn son.

But your act got tired, really quick. You draw a foul and there’s the flex, the pointing to the sky. You grab a rebound and it’s there again. The look-at-me attitude that prevails in the Association. We thought you were better than that. We were wrong.

So, while I have to live with the Pistons in the Finals for the second straight season, I have begun to accept that as not being such a bad thing. Why, you ask?

Well, despite having to endure Lindsey Hunter for a few more weeks, it means that your plan, your plan to orchestrate your way out of Toronto in order to capture that elusive NBA Championship, is a failure.

After all that, you won as many titles this year as you would have as a Toronto Raptor.

Zero.

Payback’s a bitch.

Sincerely,

Jeff Chapman