South Charter Bling - Roberta and Don Hickman

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His column will appear every Wednesday.

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Roberta and Don Hickman
( photo)

Roberta Hickman sparkles from head to toe, from the corners of her eyeglasses to the tips of her silver and black sneakers. Fellow ushers at the AT&T Center call her “The Bling Lady.”

The name fits. A Spurs usher for the past 17 seasons, Roberta reports to work in a uniform that pops. She’s got bling around her eyes and bling dangling from her ears. She’s got bling on her vest and bling on her fingers -- all designed to reflect her devotion to the Spurs.

Her passion runs so deep, toward the end of close games, she covers her face with blinged-out hands, unable to watch. Even in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, when the Spurs blew out the Heat, 113-77, Roberta refused to look on in the final minutes.

When it was over, she turned to a fellow usher and asked, “Did we really win?”

Two hours before Game 4 tipoff, Roberta stood at her South Charter station, relaxed and smiling, bejeweled in bling. She created much of it herself: the earrings, the pins on her vest, the shiny Spurs pins on her shoes. Ushers stationed in the same area follow her fashion lead.

“We call ourselves,” Roberta says, “‘The Bling Ladies of the South Charter.’”

The name and dress are just fine with the supervisor of the South Charter. Don Hickman sets the schedules and parameters for 15 ushers including Roberta, his wife of 61 years.

“He’s my boss,” Roberta says. “But I tell him what to do. Don’t all wives?”

Don and Roberta Hickman started working for the Spurs when the team played at the Alamodome. She was a retired school teacher. He was a retired civil service worker from Randolph Air Force Base. They thought ushering Spurs games would be a great way to spend part of their retirement. The job has not disappointed.

“We are here for the fans, and the fans make the job fun,” Roberta says. “They get so excited and you get to be part of it. Remember, (former Spur) Avery Johnson said, ‘Nothing beats being there.’ And that’s true. Nothing beats being here.”

Don agrees.

“We enjoy it,” he says. “But I don’t actually get to see a lot of the games. I am in the bowl some, but when I am, many times I’m taking care of a problem. We always make it a point to record games. So I go home and watch and see what we missed. We also really enjoy tuning in and watching halftime and end-of-the-game commentary by all the experts.”

The Hickmans have ushered the team through four NBA championships. They’ve done everything from helping fans find their seats to holding ropes on the floor to prevent fans from storming the court.

During big, celebratory moments, they sometimes become just like the crowd at the AT&T Center.

“They let us shout and go crazy,” Roberta says. “I think it would be hard not to. Don’t you?”