LAS VEGAS – Most fans remember Gerald Henderson, Sr. as a hero for his iconic steal against James Worthy in the 1984 NBA Finals. Ask his son, though, and he’ll tell you his father was just like anyone else.
“Well, just like anybody in the [NBA], they’re regular people,” Gerald Henderson, Jr. said. “They have a different job than most people do, but they are regular people who go about their day, go to work every day, and work hard.”
This week Henderson (Charlotte Bobcats) and Austin Daye (Detroit Pistons) — the latter the son of former Celtic Darren Daye — are trying to follow in the footsteps of their fathers at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. While the rookies are looking to establish their own careers, they are influenced by their fathers’ careers in Boston.
The elder Henderson donned green from 1979-1984 and won two titles along the way. His last-second steal and layup against the Lakers pushed the game into overtime and an eventual victory for Boston. For his son, playing for the Celtics was the most memorable stop in his father’s 13-year career.
“My dad played for a lot of teams, but his best years were in Boston,” he said, adding, “I grew up in Philly so the Sixers … I was all about the Sixers. But I watched his game tape. Like I said, those were his best years. I was real young when he was really playing, but my images of him are in Boston.”
The images are hard to miss, especially during the postseason. His father’s steal steal was voted No. 26 in the NBA’s top 60 greatest playoff moments. Henderson estimates he has seen the play “hundreds of times,” but it took a few years to realize the significance of that one play.
“They were celebrating maybe the ’84 championship and me and my family went back and a whole bunch of people recognized him and they were saying his name,” he recalled. “That’s when I kind of realized how important his play was to them winning the championship, and then also the city.”
Austin Daye also has a special memory of an iconic Celtics moment during his father’s two seasons in Boston. Ironically it was against the Pistons, the very team that drafted him.
“I remember Larry Bird’s steal and the layup,” he said of the memorable moment during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. “That’s one of the main things — him jumping up and down like a crazy man.”
Daye was impacted by his father’s time in Boston in a different way — he became a fan. Even though he was born just after Darren’s final season in 1988, Austin has followed the team from the West Coast and cheered for them during the 2008 Finals against the Lakers.
He even considers Paul Pierce to be one of his favorite players, and has incorporated some of the Truth’s game into his own repertoire.
“I’m considered a big guy but I do guard-like things,” he said. “So his game, I try to watch and get some things from, just the way he uses his body so well, stuff like that. He’s such a good player and his team is so good too.”
While Daye models his game after a current Celtic, Henderson is influenced by his father as he prepares for his first season with the Bobcats.
“I think a big thing is, he played really hard,” he said. “I try to bring it every time I go on the court.”
As for Daye, it isn’t necessarily what his father did on the court, but rather the support he offered away from the game.
“It’s a really special experience,” he said. “Not a lot of kids have an opportunity to come up with someone who’s always there for you. He was always there for me whenever I needed help, or if he needed to kick my butt. It was just a special experience and I’m going to cherish it until the day I die.”