Waiting for the bus earlier today I was approached by a young man, maybe in his early 20s, hard to tell. A stout fellow, dark-haired, wearing a tank top and shorts and sneakers. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but… are you a basketball fan?”

I was intrigued. That wasn’t a line of inquiry I’d expected. “Well, yeah, but I haven’t been following the playoffs this year much.”

“But you like it, right?” I nodded, and he continued. “Do you remember when Portland played Detroit for the Finals?”

I thought a moment. Yeah, early ’90s, I think. Maybe ’92? I’d have to google it later. “I think so…”

The entire time he’d been talking to me, he seemed distracted by some thought, a strange but pleasant smile on his face. His smile deepened and he avoided making eye contact with me as he asked the important question he’d been leading up to. “Do you remember Charles Barkley being on that team?”

I shook my head. “Oh, no. No, he never played for the Pistons. He played most of his career for Phoenix.” I racked my brains for details of the lineup for Detroit 15 years ago, but all I could remember was the ol’ flop-master, Bill Laimbeer.

“See, it’s the strangest thing…” the young man trailed off, lost in thought. After a moment he continued. “I can clearly remember Charles Barkley in a Detroit Pistons uniform, playing against Portland. My dad tells me I’m wrong, even the internet doesn’t show him on that team…” He was wistful and sentimental. “But I can clearly remember it.”

“Yeah, he wasn’t on that team. Now, more than likely we had to go through Phoenix to get to the Finals, so I’m sure we played against him at one point, but, no, he wasn’t playing for Detroit that year. I can’t remember who their center was…”

“I was thinking as a power forward or a guard, not a center.”

“Yeah. No.”

He just shook his head and stared off into space. “I can clearly remember it…”

“Memory is a strange thing” I suggested. Why was he hanging on to this thought? He wanted some complicated explanation, or he was convinced that he was right and the rest of the world was wrong. But the simple explanation is that he misremembered it. And yet, in the face of so many counter examples, he was still confused by this errant memory? Weird.

For the record, the Portland Trailblazers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals in 1991. So sayeth the internets, RandomGuy’s dad, and me.