Ben Kaplan’s NBA-Bar Mitzvah

the TWO best gifts ever

Ben Kaplan’s NBA-Bar Mitzvah

If you missed Ben Kaplan’s story traveling around the internet, let’s recap. 

It’s the year 2000. He was turning 13. He loved basketball. His Dad wanted to do something special for his Bar Mitzvah. And his Dad took a crazy shot. 

Dad cold-called Ernie Johnson at TNT, host of the famous NBA on TNT, and asked him if they would do something special for his son’s birthday. 

Apparently, Ernie not only liked the idea, but since he and the cast had a fair amount of downtime during the games…

Imagine you’re 13. You’re at your Bar Mitzvah. Everyone is gathered around a projector, a VHS is inserted, and you’re poised to look at a bunch of embarrassing pictures with all your friends and family watching. 

And then it’s… a halftime report?

And your first reaction is you accidentally taped over the presentation your parents made and you are going to be in serious trouble. 

But then they’re saying your name. 

A whole show, with your favorite commentators, commentating on you. 

It’s about how you’re going pro. How you’re a good kid. They’re talking you up

And Peter Vecsey gets a little raw at the end, because these shows always had some controversy. He expresses his skepticisms. He says he has 3 words of advice for the people watching over young Ben, “Random drug testing.”

Hysterical. You can’t let it all go to a kids head. That’s part of actually becoming a man.

But what’s amazing about all this is the gift itself.

That Dad took a shot and made an incredibly memorable moment for his son.

(Take a deep breath with me now)

Years later, Ben is officially grown, there are grandkids, there is busy adult life, and - Dad has cancer.

Ben wants to do something special for his Dad. The chemo and treatment is just brutal. So he asks himself, “What’s the best gift he ever got me?”

And of course, it’s the halftime show.

Now Ben tracks down Ernie Johnson. He reminds him of the story, which Ernie fondly remembers. And Ernie does a personal video this time - just for Dad.

Dad sees it. He cries. They all cry.

Not long after, he’s gone.

And still, these are the best gifts ever.

They’re based on the love of family. They’re based in the love of community, even amongst strangers. And they’re manifestations of the shots we take with good intent.

I love this story so much.

I’m giving you the highlights, but please - read the story, click the video links, check out the podcast about it, it’s all wonderful.