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A Dream Come True

by: Trevor Mitchell

Gabriel and Matt do their best Moochie impersonations before Rockets practice.
As one of the many prizes available through a live auction at the Houston Rockets Tux & Tennies Charity Gala this past February, two fans were recently given the opportunity to experience a day inside the life of an NBA player.

After his father Jay Mincks bid $4500, which benefited Root Memorial Square in downtown Houston, Matt Mincks and his best friend Gabriel Ortega lived a dream as they got to hang out with Rockets guard Moochie Norris on November 7.

Their big day began when Mincks and Ortega arrived at Norris’ house around 9:30 a.m. After being greeted at the door by Moochie, they were invited in to take a brief look around. Mincks’ face was filled with enthusiasm after meeting Moochie and seeing his home.

“I’m a big Rockets fan so I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while now,” he said.

The first stop for the group was Cracker Barrel restaurant, where Moochie usually drops in for breakfast from time to time. Everyone ordered the “Old Tymers Breakfast,” one of Cracker Barrel’s specialties. Moochie had to take it a step further by requesting three extra pancakes. Mincks and Ortega were surprised that one of the smallest guys in the NBA could eat so much.

“Cracker Barrel usually just makes me want to lay down, but today I’ll just have to run it all off at practice,” said Norris.

After Moochie and his guests thanked the restaurant staff for their hospitality and services, he was gracious enough to sign a few autographs before racing off to practice. Once the group arrived at the Rockets practice facility, Mincks and Ortega were taken on a tour of the complex by Rockets staff members. They also got a chance to hang out with Moochie in the locker room.

“Wow! Yao Ming is so tall,” said Mincks.

Once practice began, the two guests had the chance to sit back and watch the Rockets go through their routine. Due to the fact that the Rockets practices are closed to the public, Mincks and Ortega realized that they were witnessing something that few people get to see.

“This is unbelievable. It’s a new appreciation of the game for me,” added Mincks. “I never realized how fast the pace of the game was until today.”

Matt looks on as Moochie gets his hair styled by Terri.
Ortega even called several people on his cell phone to rub it in to his family and friends what special privileges he had for the day. When practice was completed, the two fans waited for Moochie to shower and change. They were allowed to take pictures with all the players and Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Many Rockets players, especially Maurice Taylor and Steve Francis could not believe that anyone would spend money to hang out with Moochie.

“I really hope you guys get a refund,” joked Taylor.

A black limousine awaited the group as they left practice. The next stop on the itinerary was lunch at a popular Houston location, Dave and Busters. The staff immediately seated Moochie and his guests. Everyone was still somewhat full from all the pancakes at Cracker Barrel, so they all decided to have a light lunch. D & B’s provided their special patrons with game cards and the group was off to shoot some hoops. Norris showed why he is a professional basketball player by routing Mincks and Ortega several times in a hotshot competition.

“Even though I lost, this is something that I will always remember” Ortega said.

Moochie mentioned that it would not be fair to the guys if I did not report that he beat me as well. Hopefully finishing second to an NBA player counts for something.

In fact, that day just seemed to be Moochie’s lucky day. Besides basketball, he took home first place honors in the racing car and snow sledding interactive games as well. Trailing the entire race, he fell to the floor in excitement after nipping the whole group at the finish line.

“The games must be rigged for NBA players,” proclaimed Ortega.

Once Moochie finished his taunting and bragging, the group boarded the limo once again. The next destination was a trip to Norris’ hair salon, A Cut Above. Being that Moochie annually competes with Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons for the best NBA hairstyle, he likes to show versatility ranging from braids to the retro afro.

Today Moochie gave complete autonomy to his hairstylist Terri, who proceeded to wash and massage his scalp before braiding his hair in a unique pattern of cornrows. This process took around two hours to complete.

“The massage is the best part, but I still have to keep the wig tight at all times,” said Norris. Terri disagreed. “I usually have to call him when I see him on TV with his hair looking a mess,” she said.

Mincks and Ortega had a great time having inside access to Moochie’s infamous character trait.

“The people at the salon were nice and friendly. It was like going to your Aunt’s house to watch TV and get your hair done,” said Ortega.

Gabriel and Matt take in dinner with Moochie at his favorite restaurant, Benihana's.
With a new hairdo intact, Norris and the guys headed for his favorite restaurant, Benihana’s. Once they were seated at the table, Moochie’s appetite was back. He ordered three salads and an entrée called Splash N’ Meadow, which is a combination of steak and shrimp. When everyone finished eating, Moochie once again signed some autographs and posed for a picture to go on the Benihana’s Wall of Fame.

During the ride back to the practice facility the guys talked about what a great time they had spending nearly 12 hours with an NBA star.

“Tonight was special,” said Moochie. “Just being the one chosen to do this means a lot to me. I had fun. I know my boys had fun. I wish the night didn’t have to end so soon.”

Before departing Mincks had a few things to say about his overall experience.

“Moochie is definitely a character,” he said. “He was a great host and a down-to-earth type of guy. I would like to thank the entire Rockets organization for definitely making a dream come true.”