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Cleveland Cavaliers fan David LaRue needed an edge for his April Fool's Day "HORSE" game against rookie power forward Carlos Boozer.
The Carlos Boozer Archive
LaRue won the right to play Boozer in the game of HORSE by winning a silent auction earlier this year at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards dinner, but LaRue hadn't played basketball since he was a schoolboy at Catholic Central in Steubenville, Ohio.
The 41-year-old chief operating officer for Forest City Enterprises had a few trick shots to use in the games, but he felt he needed something extra up his sleeve if he was going to be able to match the 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate. So LaRue did a little research, then had his secretary get in touch with JDHS librarian Linda Thibodeau.
"I found out what high school Carlos went to and started looking up his stats," LaRue said in a story on the Cleveland Cavaliers' Web site. "He was a four-time all-state and three-time Alaska Player of the Year at Juneau-Douglas, but they lost the state championship his senior year. I wondered what team he lost to (East Anchorage) and found that out. Then I called the coaches from both teams and they forwarded me uniforms."
"His secretary called me, I guess because I'm the school's Web master and my name's on the school's Web page," Thibodeau said. "They were interested in who our big rivals were, so I asked George (JDHS coach George Houston) if I should tell them Ketchikan or East. George said East was the one that would be nearer to Carlos, since East kept him from winning his senior year. We told her we could probably get them something from JDHS and George donated an old jersey."
After Tuesday afternoon's Cavaliers' practice, LaRue and several of his family members and coworkers showed up at Gund Arena for LaRue's game of HORSE. Boozer was introduced to LaRue, then LaRue pulled off his t-shirt. Underneath the t-shirt, LaRue was wearing an old JDHS road jersey, No. 42.
"He contacted Linda about a month ago, and went through Cricket (activities office assistant Cricket Curtain)," Houston said. "He was interested in one of Carlos' old jerseys (No. 4 his last three years, No. 40 his freshman year), but he wasn't going to get one of those. They're all retired. He got ahold of people from East, too, and got what looked like a warmup jersey from them."
"I couldn't believe it," Boozer said in the Web site story.
The first game of HORSE started, and Boozer fell behind as LaRue made a college 3-pointer. Boozer evened the score with a free throw, and LaRue went to a trick shot - a bank shot bounced off the top of his head - but missed. Boozer hit a couple of baseline jumpers to put his opponent at H-O-R.
Boozer dug into his own bag of tricks for his next shot, a shot from out of bounds that went over the backboard and through to give LaRue H-O-R-S. LaRue made a bank shot from the left wing and a perimeter jumper to put Boozer on H-O-R, but Boozer ended the first game of the best two-of-three series with a jumper off the glass.
That's when LaRue pulled off his JDHS shirt to reveal a dreaded Columbia blue and red East jersey.
"Unbelievable, you gotta be kidding," Boozer said in the Web site story.
Boozer quickly saddled LaRue with H-O-R-S, with the S coming off a Boozer shot from behind the basket that bounced off the top of the shot clock and in. LaRue gave Boozer an O with a half-court Hail Mary, a 57-foot running one-hander, but Boozer ended the game with a college 3-pointer.
"What a great guy, a great young man," LaRue said of Boozer. "The impression of many professional athletes is that they're more aloof than usual. That's not the case with Carlos. He's a solid guy and he made me feel real comfortable. And he didn't dunk on me, even though I was ready for it."
LaRue (and his secretary) also left an impression on the folks at JDHS, who sent LaRue some school bumper stickers and a hat in addition to the jersey.
"It was a neat little public relations thing," Thibodeau said. "They were very kind. They called later and said they'd like to make a donation to the high school activities fund."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.