Vin Sylvia: A Bonner version of 'Night Court'
SOAKING in the atmosphere of the Spurs’ victory celebration late Sunday night in San Antonio, Luke Bonner looked at his brother, Matt, and drifted back in time to the New Hampshire of 15 or so years ago.
Returning to the present, Luke pulled out his trusty handheld and tweeted, “All I can think about is riding around Concord in the summer trying to find a court w lights on to shoot hoops with Matt, Becky and @CJB_603.”
@CJB_603 — better known as Chris Brickley, Luke’s former Trinity High of Manchester teammate — may not be in San Antonio for the Spurs’ championship parade tonight, but Luke, sister Becky and their parents, Dave and Paula Bonner, will.
Matt, too, of course. The big kid who used to drive his younger siblings and their friend around in search of night hoops is now a two-time NBA champion, seven years after winning his first title with the Spurs.
“When you people close to you in such a moment of accomplishment, it lends itself to reflection on the journey and how they got there,” Luke said of his own tweeted reflection Monday night. “So much of our lives was about working at basketball and trying to get better — me, Matt and Becky, and it seems like Chris was always with us — trying to find lighted courts where we could work on our games.”
That work helped take all of them far.
Luke to the University of West Virginia and the University of Massachusetts and to a couple of professional teams in Europe and two stints with the Austin Toros, the Spurs’ developmental affiliate in the NBA D-League.
Becky to Stanford University and Boston University as a player, then to a basketball operations job at the University of Louisville and to her current position, in the NBA’s International Basketball Operations division.
Brickley to Southern New Hampshire University and Louisville as a player, later to Mississippi and Fairleigh Dickinson and Pace as an assistant coach.
And then there’s Matt, the oldest of the bunch, and the only one still playing — the three-time state champion from Concord High who went on to become an Academic All-American at Florida, play his first professional season in Italy, become a fan favorite in two NBA seasons as a Toronto Raptor, and, for the past eight seasons, play a key supporting role for the Spurs.
Only four players from this year’s championship team were members of that 2006-07 San Antonio squad: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker ... and Matt Bonner.
“If you had said after that ’07 win, ‘Seven years from now, those guys are going to be NBA champions again,’ no one would have believed it,” Luke Bonner said. “People were saying the Spurs were old back then.”
They say it even more now. But they also say that if Tim Duncan returns for another season at age 38, and with Kawhi Leonard coming off an NBA Finals MVP performance at age 22, the team that just crushed LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five games should be the odds-on favorite to win another title in 2015.
The question is: If the Spurs do defend their title, will the Bonners be back in San Antonio to celebrate it?
Matt is 34 now, his minutes have diminished each of the past three seasons to the second-lowest total of his career this year, and he’s a free agent. But he still can nail 3-pointers (43 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season), and he still can be a reliable player in a limited role, as he showed with nine impressive minutes off the bench in Game 4.
Luke thinks his older brother — we can’t call Matt his big brother, Matt being a mere 6 feet, 10 inches to Luke’s 7-1 — will remain a Spur.
“It’s all speculation at this point, but I definitely see him continuing to play for the Spurs,” Luke said. “He’s been in San Antonio eight years now, and he’s established there, so I’m sure it’s his first option. We’ll see how it plays out.”
It’s played out pretty well so far — from some dimly lit courts in Concord to the bright lights of the NBA Finals and another championship parade.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @vinsylvia.