At the conclusion of the 2003-2004 basketball season, Andre Emmett put on a show in the McDonald’s Slam Dunk Contest. It was the cherry on top of an outstanding collegiate career, as Emmett had just wrapped up a unanimous All-American season at Texas Tech that included his third consecutive selection to the All-Big 12 first team.
I was just a little kid when Emmett was capping off his time as a Red Raider, but his name and highlight reel plays stuck with me. During his professional career, he made a stop in my hometown of Austin with the NBA D-League’s Austin Toros.
At the time, I had the distinct honor of being a ball boy for the Toros. Even “ball boy” is an inflated title, as my main job was to wipe up sweat off the floor when one of the players hit the deck or to hand them water when they got to the bench. I didn’t see much glory in it back then.
But today I enjoy a better perspective. Before games, I had a blast rebounding for the Toros and throwing them passes during pre-game shootaround. You can imagine how starstruck I was as a 12 or 13-year old boy when Andre Emmett showed up for the Toros one day. I was nervous to be around him. He was famous. He could do crazy dunks. He was an all-star at a big time college. He must have been 10-feet tall to me at the time.
He was different from every other player. Not just his talent, which exceeded others in the D-League, but his personality too.
While some players were locked in and quiet during warm-ups and others had headphones blaring to block out the noise, Emmett would talk to all the ball boys and joke with us. He’d let us throw him fun passes and took crazy shots when we barked out challenges like it was a game of “HORSE”.
At the end of his interview after winning the dunk contest, Emmett famously said “Dre loves the kids!” I can testify that he did; he was really great to all the ball boys and throughout his career found ways to give back to his community.
The Austin Toros even had Andre Emmett bobblehead night, and I kept mine for many years. It’s the type of artifact that probably got lost in a move between houses at some point, and with the benefit of hindsight, is something I should have treasured more.
The world will no doubt miss Andre Emmett – especially his kids and the rest of his family. Coach Beard summed things up nicely in a video yesterday when he emphasized that Emmett was an even better than he was a basketball player.
Andre Emmett will always be a special basketball player and person for me and definitely many others. He was the first Texas Tech basketball player I remember as a kid. And he is the last Texas Tech basketball player I’ll ever look up to with the child-like wonder I did as a middle school boy.
Now many years older than the average college player, I still marvel at their abilities but I’m able to process it all in proper context. None of them will ever be giants the way Andre Emmett was to me growing up. There will surely be a Texas Tech player down the road worthy of having a bobblehead, but those bobbleheads will be special for a younger generation than mine.
It’s very difficult to process the death of a 37-year old murdered in cold blood who seemed untouchable at the time he made an impact on my life. For me, there will never be another player like him.
Rest in peace, Andre Emmett, and thanks for the memories. #Retire14