by: Phil Orban Updated:CHARLOTTE —
The Charlotte Bobcats starting five have a combined 22 years of NBA experience.
Equipment manager Jason Rivera has been in the league for 24 years, including 123 playoff games with the Orlando Magic.
He got an early start; when he was 12 he got his first job as a ball boy.
For 24 years Rivera has worked NBA locker rooms. He has many stories, such as his run-in with Magic rookie Shaquille O’Neal.
“I accidentally stepped on Shaq’s toe, and he grabbed me and put me through the ceiling. And he was just playing around, and he put me down and he called me chico. And to this day he still calls me chico,” Rivera said.
He also was working when his current boss, Michael Jordan, had to wear No. 12 instead of the iconic 23 for a game in Orlando.
“They set up for shoot around like we do, and I guess a security guard went up and got it, so when they came back it wasn't there,” Rivera said.
Sports anchor Phil Orban asked Rivera if he has had any negative experiences, since he has been around professional athletes for nearly two-thirds of his life. He struggled to think of one, and for that he knows he is lucky.
“Especially when you have 16, 17-hour days and you're just like, you just have to sit back and say it could be a lot worse, this is heaven actually,” Rivera said.
The Bobcats clinched their spot in the NBA playoffs Saturday night following a win over Cleveland.