Marcus Hill mug

Marcus Hill, Staff Reporter 

My understanding of the “holiday spirit” began shortly after my 13th birthday in October 2003.

I was an 8th grader and just received what I still perceive as the greatest sports game ever: NBA Street Vol. 2. I remember every lyric to the intro and nearly every highlight playing over the music.

The intro followed with the song, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock and CL Smooth on the title screen. Those saxophones and graffiti-style text meshed so well.

Then came the record scratches during selections, the load screens featuring old-school stars from the 1960s - 90s and the commentary from Bobbito Garcia, a.k.a. DJ Cucumber Slice.

To me, the game had no flaws. My friend Bentley introduced me to NBA Street Vol. 2 in May 2003 and has no idea the nostalgic chokehold it has on me. 

My brother Robert and I played the game for hours every day for the next few weeks. After school wrapped at Gorman, for him at Harrison, we hopped on the sticks and battled each other.

Sometime in November, Robert randomly asked, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if the games stopped working?” I responded “Yeah.” I didn’t give it much thought because that could never happen, right?

Fast forward to Christmas 2003. I was “that” kid during the holidays. The one who developed insomnia on Christmas Eve and needed to open a gift on the 24th to literally pregame for the 25th.

At this point in my life, I mostly asked for video games on Christmas and I had plenty: NBA Live 2004, Madden 2004, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2. My brothers Robert and Dominique added NBA Street (important to note, not NBA Street Vol. 2) and Ace Combat 4.

I was a kid in a candy store that Christmas morning. Then, by a child’s standards, disaster struck. Robert’s premonition came to fruition. Our PlayStation 2 didn’t acknowledge newer games.

We inserted disc after disc hoping the PS2 would exit its opening screen. But we had no such luck. To this day, I have no answer for the malfunction. I’m not sure if it was a defective model, if we overused our PS2, or if it was some unavoidable breakdown.

Our PS2 played older games, but all games we received on Christmas did not function. My mom called my aunt and asked her and my cousins to bring over their PS2. I had other gifts and a slate of NBA Christmas games to keep me entertained until they arrived.

However, as we waited for their arrival, I was not distraught about the video games. The disappointment I felt that morning dissipated and I still felt happy.

My aunt and cousins came around 3 p.m. to help us and, low and behold, our games worked on their system.

We played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (we’re responsible adults despite playing this as children), NBA Live and Madden as the hours flew by.

As those hours passed, I still did not care that our PS2 would not work; having family over and enjoying the holidays sufficed.

I didn’t realize it until my 20s, but, the gifts, money spent, family time, smiles and old stories, soothed my soul. I think my brother’s foresight about the PS2’s malfunction planted a seed that blossomed that Christmas and did not make sense until adulthood.

For some kids, December is just the final month of the year. Nothing special about the 25th, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah because their families have bigger issues than a malfunctioning gaming system.

Some families lost a parent, or both, and hustle to keep a roof over their heads. Older siblings function as mom and/or dad and cobble together what they can to give younger siblings a shred of holiday excitement.

Others wander the streets searching for shelter and fighting for another day of oxygen while families unbox gifts.

When I face troublesome moments, I recall a quote from Gregg Popovich, coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (and an Air Force Academy grad).

In 2013, the Miami Heat’s Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals that extended the series to a seventh game. The Heat won that game.

Years later, Popovich said, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you in your life, you are a lucky, lucky man. And I think we are.”

Some people have it worse and I am fortunate to have never experienced the holidays without gifts and always had something to look forward to on Christmas. 

I doubt most of my family recalls much from Christmas 2003, aside from the PS2’s malfunction. But from October 2003 through the end of that year, they gifted me an important part of who I am today.


Marcus Hill is a reporter for the Southeast Express and Schriever Sentinel. He graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication.