An NBA Debut to Remember


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 Spurs.com column will appear every Wednesday.


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Tim Duncan and Tony Parker

On the second floor concourse of the AT&T Center, the final minute of Game 1 of the NBA Finals plays out on an overhead television.

Through a pane of glass on an outdoor terrace, 2-year-old twin brothers watch the finish in mom and dad’s arms, clad in No. 21 and No. 9 Spurs jerseys that bear their first names, Duncan and Parker.

A gentle breeze blows. When the boys grow up, Jon Paul and Crystal Dennison will tell them they had the coolest seat in the house.

Mom and dad will have something else to tell.

Seven years after Jon Paul and Crystal met at a Spurs game, they brought Duncan and Parker to the AT&T Center to witness their first NBA game. They won’t remember that the Spurs beat the Heat, 110-95, or that they started the game in section 205, row 18 and finished on the outdoor terrace. But they’ll have pictures, lot of pictures, to review of their NBA baptism.

“I love that we could bring them to the game,” says Jon Paul, 32, an associate pastor at Alamo Ranch Community Church. “It will be great for them when they are older.”

Silver and black are in the twins’ DNA. The story begins in April 2007: Jon Paul takes a job at the AT&T Center’s Terrace Club. Crystal waits tables there and is asked to show the new employee around. They meet at the cash register.

Next thing you know, they’re dating and carpooling to work together. They watch the first two games of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center. They catch Game 4 at a friend’s apartment and celebrate the Spurs’ sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They marry in 2009. Crystal gets pregnant in 2011. Doctors say she’s going to have twins. After church and over lunch, friends ask, “What are you going to name them?”

Off the top of his head, Jon Paul blurts, “Duncan and Parker.” Everyone laughs. The names linger. They not only have a nice ring. They seem to fit.

On Feb. 24, 2012, hours after the Spurs return home from their Rodeo Road trip, Duncan and Parker are born, five weeks premature. They are placed on breathing machines in a neonatal intensive care unit. Feeding tubes are inserted into their noses. Family and friends pray.

Each boy is outfitted with a silver and black onesie, the longest of the brothers dressed in No. 21, the shortest in No. 9. They are the talk of North Central Baptist Hospital.

The twins recover and go home. They stretch and grow as their namesakes propel the Spurs deep into the playoffs. On their first birthday, each boy receives his own basketball hoop. Balls fly all over the house.

The twins turn two. The Spurs make another deep postseason run. Grandpa buys the boys tickets for Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals.

Just before leaving for the AT&T Center, the boys get sick. One is throwing up. The other has an upset stomach. The game is approaching. Can they make it?

The family races out only to get stuck in traffic. The Dennisons arrive at their seats just before tipoff. The thunderous crowd -- and the heat -- lead the family to the terrace in the fourth quarter. As the final minutes unfold, the boys show no signs of illness.

Big Duncan and Parker gave little Duncan and Parker a show. Tim scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Tony added 19 points and eight assists.

“It was a great win,” Jon Paul says. “It’s a memory we will always have,” Crystal says. Inside on the concourse, fans stream toward the elevator, shouting, slapping fives, celebrating. Outside on the wind-blown terrace, No. 21 and No. 9 look through the window at the growing throng. It is a fitting, if not poetic picture: Duncan and Parker looking oh so cool in the madness around them.