Letter to My Younger Sister

Dear Anna,

First of all, let me just apologize. When I was nine years old and dad told me that my baby sister was on her way, and that we had to go to the hospital to meet you, I didn’t have any interest whatsoever. Dad was supposed to take me to Disco Sporting Goods that day to buy me a new baseball glove.

What am I going to do with a baby sister?

A baby brother? O.K., maybe I could make him be my catcher. That might be cool. But a sister? Nah. My mind was on the baseball glove.

But when we got to the hospital and I saw you open your eyes for the first time, everything changed.

I told Mom and Dad, “Look at her. She’s so cool. I have my own baby now.”

They laughed. After I held you for a while, Dad said, “All right, time to go to the store and get your glove.”

I said, “What? I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here.”

You won me over quick.

I remember when you were three or four years old, you and Dad used to play basketball in the cul-de-sac in front of our house every morning. That was the thing you shared. He was teaching you how to do reverse layups on that little hoop before you were even in kindergarten. I remember watching, stunned at how good you were. Remember how you used to dribble the ball through the house and drive everybody crazy? I do.

I always knew you had great things ahead of you, but I didn’t realize just how great until my second year in Seattle, when you came to town and we played one-on-one at the Bellevue Club gym. You had grown a little taller. I could tell your crossover was a little quicker. But I mean, come on. I’m Big Bro. I’m a pro athlete. You’re 15.

I started the game going like, 75%. (We had a big Monday Night Football game coming up.)

And you smoked me. By the time it was 7–1, I was going all-out. But it wasn’t helping. Next thing I know, you’re crossing me up, blowing by me, going straight to the basket and I had to foul you.

I’ll never forget you screaming, “And-one! You can’t take me!”

I turned around and there’s like 100 people watching, pulling out their phones. My baby sister, putting me on an And1 mixtape. That’s when I knew you were going to be something special.

It’s amazing how fast the time goes by. I can’t believe that you graduate from high school today. I’m so happy to see you go off to Stanford to play basketball, and live out all your hopes and dreams. You and I both know that it hasn’t been easy. For you to accomplish everything you have accomplished after losing Dad at such a young age is nothing short of incredible. You are as tough and as smart as they come.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart — you inspire me.

When you and Mom came out to live in Seattle with me last year, I got to see how hard you worked, and how much Mom pushed you to achieve your dreams. I watched you wake up every morning at 5:30 to go to the gym to practice before school. I watched you study for tests into the wee hours of the morning. And I watched you do it all with a smile and a sense of humor.

I will admit it. You punked me pretty bad with your little football prank a few months ago. When I ran out into the backyard and saw you face down and crying with a “broken nose,” I really thought Mom was never going to let me hear the end of it. My baby sister going down on my watch? I was freaking out. There was blood everywhere. You had the crocodile tears just perfect.

Turns out it was just Heinz ketchup. You deserve props for your acting skills. I thought for sure we were going to the emergency room. Never lose that sick sense of humor. Never lose your joy for life.

As someone who has already been through college, I can’t tell you everything. That’s for you to figure out on your own. But I can tell you this …

When you get to school, there will be a lot of people who want to see you succeed and be a positive force in your life.

But some people will try to get in the way of your joy. That’s life. You need to figure out how to live with an open heart in spite of those people. Sometimes that’s harder than it looks.

Today, I’ll get to see you graduate from high school as a strong, independent, competitive, compassionate young woman — on your way to one of the best schools in the world on a full scholarship.

Mom will be there. Remember to hug her tight for everything she’s done for you, and for all the laughter and tears and late nights you’ve shared with her.

Our brother Harry, Grandma Carolyn, Uncle Ben, Aunt Merinda, Ciara and all the rest of our family will be there smiling.

But someone else will be there, too. He will be the proudest of all of us. Every time you hit a reverse layup, remember who taught you that move again and again and again out in the cul-de-sac.

You opened your own doors. Always play, always love and always lead with an open heart.

You turned out to be way cooler than a new baseball glove.

I love you,