Benefield: Former Warriors player, local basketball talent get a reunion 17 years in the making
Bobby Sharp shot nearly 87% from the free-throw line his senior year at the University of Portland. His pre-shot routine was not typical: No dribbles, just a couple of deep breaths and release. Almost nine times out of 10 it would go in for the guy wearing No. 11.
He’d been shooting foul shots like that since he was 10 years old.
When asked last week about the period, almost 17 years ago to the day, that his son was stricken, Bobby’s dad, Phil Sharp, remembers some things, but others have been lost to time. He remembers Bobby, 10 years old, being in such pain, he had to carry him through the doors of the hospital. He remembers the helicopter flight to Oakland Children’s Hospital. He remembers the care his son received, but not a lot of the details about what procedures were done and when.
Sudden pneumothorax. Intubation. Ventilators. A chest tube inserted between Bobby’s ribs. Intensive care for six days.
“Everything is kind of a blur around you,” he said.
Phil and his wife, Sue, didn’t know, but their son had a unique type of asthma. An active kid from the moment he could walk, he had never shown any signs of the condition.
Once he was out of intensive care, Bobby Sharp was moved to a different floor of the hospital. He started to feel stronger. So much so that the days of bed rest started to test his patience. He played cards with his 12-year-old sister, Katelyn. He visited with cousins and grandparents who, it seemed, made the daily trek from Santa Rosa to Oakland. And he watched basketball. The Golden State Warriors in particular.
The Sharps were not a ?sports-crazed family, which made Bobby Sharp’s sports obsession mildly amusing to all. He didn’t play with trucks and tools as a toddler; he bounced balls.
So when Phil Sharp got a call saying that a friend of a friend had contacted the Warriors’ brass to see if they could do something for Bobby, he didn’t say a word to his son. If it didn’t work out, he knew Bobby would be devastated. Phil and Sue stayed quiet.
Bobby was playing cards with his sister and cousins in his hospital room when there was a knock at the door.
“In walks Earl,” Phil Sharp said.
Earl was Earl Boykins, the diminutive Warriors point guard with an outsized talent.
“He comes walking in and Bobby just looks up, eyes wide,” Phil Sharp said. “Earl says, ‘Hey, do you know who I am?’ Bobby says, ‘Yeah, you scored 28 against the Timberwolves last night.”
Bobby Sharp proceeded to remind Boykins that he also had eight assists and was a perfect 7 of 7 from the free-throw line - shooting in his no-dribble, deep-breath routine. Boykins, rest assured, was impressed.
“He knew everything,” Boykins said. “That really stands out to me. A lot of people say they are fans, but offhand, to just tell you your stat line?”
Reached by phone this week, Boykins -who is now working for his old Warriors head coach Eric Musselman with the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team - said when the Warriors required players to do a certain amount of community service, he always chose Read to Achieve or visiting hospitals. The other options, building houses, scared him.
“That was never an option,” he said, laughing. “I’m not doing that one. I was terrified.”
So when a staffer asked who wanted to go to Children’s Hospital to meet a super fan from Sonoma County, Boykins raised his hand. When he walked into Bobby Sharp’s room carrying a basketball signed by all of the 2002-03 Warriors, it was the brightest anyone in the Sharp family had felt in what seemed like forever.
“It was extremely emotional,” Sue Sharp said. “It was everything. You just have to know Bob. At two years old he was bouncing a basketball. He knew the whole team. He watched them all of the time. To have one actually walk in, it was everything, especially at that time. It’s hard to say - it meant everything to him, so it meant everything to us.”
Today, Boykins remembers feeling for Bobby’s parents.
“When you walk in the room, the parents are excited, the children are excited, but the reality is, this is not a place you want your child to be in. It’s not a place any parent wants their child to be in,” he said.
So Boykins tried to put everyone at ease. It turns out that his visit had interrupted a card game between Sharp and his cousins. Whatever the game, the Sharps are pretty sure their neighbors made it up, so the rules had to be explained. Boykins sat down for a hand.
“He jumps on my cousin’s team,” Bobby Sharp said. “He went to the other team to go against me. It was probably the first time I was able to feel competitive again.”