In his moment of ultimate professional glory, after a lifetime of dedication, the man with all the basketball answers was uncharacteristically indecisive.
Always knowing precisely where the ball should go, who should get it and when it should arrive, Jason Kidd, newly crowned NBA champion, was utterly flummoxed.
The kid who grew up on East Bay basketball courts didn't know where to turn or what to do. He had no clue about protocol. His teammates had no idea, either, and for once, Kidd, the oldest and most accomplished among them, could not assist.
"(It was) surreal in the sense that we won a championship, and we really didn't know how to celebrate in the locker room," is the way Kidd describes it now, still digesting the evening his Dallas Mavericks ousted the Miami Heat in six games to win it all.
Kidd, 38, was exhausted. He wanted to relax. He bathed in Champagne. He hugged teammates and coaches and friends. Through it all, he was mentally replaying a quarter century of basketball.
He reflected on his youth, from the courts in and around Oakland, to St. Joseph High in Alameda, where he became a local celebrity and national star. His mind wandered back to Cal, where in two seasons he lifted a middling program to unprecedented visibility before declaring for the 1994 NBA draft after his sophomore year.
He thought about his mother, Anne, and his sisters, Denise and Kim. Thought about his five children, about former
Most of all, Jason longed for the presence of his father, Steve, and his former coach at St. Joe's, Frank LaPorte, two influences who tried -- though not always successfully -- to keep young Jason in check.
Two men who with three words -- "You did it!" -- could dampen Kidd's eyes.
"It was like, 'Man, I wish Coach LaPorte was still around,' " Kidd says. "I know he was watching from above, but to be able to "... the last time I won something like this was in high school.
"And all the guys I played with, throughout high school to college and my NBA journey, this was the group that I finally won it with. I thought about all the guys that I played with that helped me play this long, but also had fun playing the game. There were a lot family members and friends that I thought about that I wish could have been here to see it in person."
With LaPorte on the bench and Kidd on the floor, St. Joe's won state titles in 1991 and '92. Player and coach remained close, even after Kidd went to Dallas as the No. 2 overall NBA draft pick in '94. LaPorte spent his final year battling pancreatic cancer before succumbing in 1997 at age 64.
Kidd still had his dad. Steve Kidd spent as much time with Jason as he did at home. As a longtime TWA employee, Steve traveled frequently, often greeting Jason at road hotels. He had his own room at his son's home in suburban Dallas.
In 1999, a few days after visiting Jason in Phoenix -- he had been traded to the Suns in 1997 -- Steve Kidd sustained a fatal heart attack. He was 61.
"With my dad, (winning a championship) was the No. 1 thing," Kidd recalls. "Talking with him when I was younger, or seeing him on the road while playing in the NBA, I always told him we were going to win a championship here soon. I think he agreed. I also think he was willing to be honest about the fact that there are some better teams out there than you.
"But to take this long, I think he would probably tell me, 'The thing I've always told you was you have to be patient. It doesn't always happen when you think it will.' He always told me it doesn't happen when you want it to happen, but it will."
It didn't happen during Jason Kidd's first term in Dallas, or in Phoenix, where Jason spent five seasons before being traded to New Jersey, where he spent six years and twice lost in the NBA finals.
That's not to suggest those years were empty. Kidd is a 10-time All-Star with five top-10 finishes in the MVP voting. He ranks No. 2 on the all-time assists list, No. 3 on the all-time list for steals, 3-point shots and triple-doubles. Meanwhile, his 56-0 record as a Team USA representative makes him the poster boy for success in international competition.
Not until the fourth season of Kidd's second stint in Dallas, with his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame credentials established, did he capture the elusive ring.
"It's like a dream," Kidd says. "People have asked, 'How does it feel?' It's hard to explain because I've never had a championship in the NBA. The closest thing I could try to compare it to is high school. It's a dream come true."
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.