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Matt Bonner brings the NBA Championship Trophy to Concord

Last modified: 7/12/2014 12:32:00 AM
It came from Argentina. It will fly to Australia next week. But for now, the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy resides in Concord.

The trophy arrived at Rundlett Middle School yesterday courtesy of Matt Bonner, the 6-foot-10 Concord native who was part of the San Antonio Spurs team that won the NBA title last month. Bonner and his brother, Luke, held their annual summer basketball camp at Rundlett this week, and the trophy was a surprise guest at the camp’s closing ceremonies.

“It means a lot to me to bring the trophy here to Concord,” Matt Bonner said. “It’s very symbolic. I literally grew up a block from (Rundlett), right down on South Street, so now, at the age of 34, to have the NBA Championship trophy come here, it kind of brings it all full circle.”

Bonner also won an NBA title with the Spurs in 2007, his first year in San Antonio. But the trophy didn’t go on a tour of the players’ hometowns in ’07 like it’s doing now. Argentina’s Manu Ginobli took the first turn last week, Patty Mills will parade it around Australia after it leaves New Hampshire, and eventually it will make stops in Italy, France and California. To see the complete itinerary, go to nba.com/spurs/trophytour.

Mitch Heckart, who works for the Spurs, is the designated trophy handler. He said the trophy’s schedule was based on when players wanted it, not on convenient flight paths. Ginobli had it at a press conference for Argentina’s national basketball team, Tony Parker is bringing it to a charity dinner in France, and Bonner wanted it at his camp, which was no surprise to one astute camper.

“I think that Bonner had to set this up perfectly because it would be too big of a coincidence that at the same time of the camp it was his turn to have it,” said Charlie Makee, 11, of Concord. “So I think he specifically asked for this week. And I think it’s a once in a lifetime chance to see it.”

While Bonner told some family members (his father Dave was on hand) and media members (an NBA TV crew was there filming) about the trophy arriving, none of the campers knew. The surprise was obvious on the face of Jesse Semeniak, whose jaw actually dropped when she saw the trophy enter the gym.

Jesse, 13, is from Bayonne, N.J., but has cousins in Manchester and has attended the Bonner Camp for the last three years. Her team, the Mavericks, won the five-on-five tournament in the camp’s “NBA” division. All of the Mavericks were called to the front of the Rundlett gym to receive some awards. That’s when Queen’s “We Are the Champions” started playing and the O’Brien Trophy made its first official appearance in New Hampshire.

“I didn’t believe that was actually it,” Jesse said. “I watched the whole series. I watched it last year when the Spurs lost and this year when they won, and I was so amazed to see that. I’ve never won anything at this camp, and then when I do win something, they brought that trophy out. I was stunned and awed that I got to be a part of that.”

She wasn’t the only stunned one.

“I was definitely surprised because it’s one of the biggest and best trophies I’ve ever seen in my life,” said 13-year-old Harry Makee, Charlie’s older brother. “The fact that people of that high level have touched it, it was pretty cool to see.”

“A little bit surprised,” 12-year-old Kevin Newton-Delgado of Hopkinton said about seeing the golden hardware. “And happy.”

And he wasn’t the only happy one.

“It’s pretty awesome. I mean, who knows if it will ever happen again. It’s just really cool that we get to have it at the camp,” said Luke Bonner, who played professional basketball in Lithuania, Hungary and, most recently, the NBA Developmental League. “Even though Matt won the championship, anyone who played with him or trained with him growing up feels a part of that.”

The Bonners were also planning their own local tour for the trophy, including stops at the city’s basketball courts – White Park, Rollins Park, West Street, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club – as well as the State House and maybe some of Matt’s favorite sandwich shops. And today it will be front and center at their Sneakers and Speakers Benefit Concert in Portsmouth. The show will feature some well-known bands (Okkervil River, Kevin Devine, The Whigs and more) and will raise money for the brothers’ Rock On Foundation, which helps create athletic and artistic opportunities for kids.

As Matt was handing out the end-of-camp awards yesterday, the news broke that LeBron James had signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bonner, who is free agent himself, announced the news to the camp, but he didn’t mention what it meant to him.

“The majority of the free agent market is being held hostage by LeBron,” Bonner said about an hour before the James signing was announced. “Most teams aren’t making any moves until he picks a team, and then the rest of the dominoes will fall. Way down somewhere toward the end of that domino line is me, so we’ll see what happens. I’m hoping to be back with the Spurs, though.”

No matter where Bonner ends up next season, chances are good the Bonner Camp will be returning to Concord.

“It’s almost become a Concord institution, in a way,” Luke Bonner said. “It’s something we really look forward to doing every summer. We went to Rundlett, so it’s pretty cool that we can do it right here.”

“What I enjoy is being able to come back here to where I grew up and put on a camp for the kids here in Concord,” Matt said. “We have kids that live all over the place that come here, but it’s special to give a kid in Concord an opportunity to come to an NBA player’s camp and learn from somebody who grew up in the same state, the same city, the same neighborhood.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)


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