Two years ago, Jean-Jack Largeron and his wife Stephanie—who live on the Atlantic Coast in the beautiful city of Biarritz, France—decided to take their three kids, Esteban, Jehann and Elan, who are now 12, 10 and three respectively, on a trip to New York. The vacation would include a visit to Madison Square Garden, where the family took in an NBA game between the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors.
Jean-Jack played basketball at a young age and later became president of a local basketball team in his hometown. He was a huge NBA fan growing up, although access to watching games was limited in France. He still remembers following the league through newspaper box scores in the mid-90s.
Jean-Jack had posters of Michael Jordan and Tim Hardaway in his room. Sometimes they would show the All-Star Game on TV. Eventually, the broadcast expanded to show more games. In 2000, Stephanie met Jean-Jack through a mutual friend. A synchronized swimmer, she only knew of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, but soon learned to follow the NBA as well. “That’s what you call love,” Stephanie says, laughing.
The visit to the Garden provided the Largerons with a taste of what it was like to be an NBA fan, but the basketball-crazed family wanted more. So when they recently sold their online business of selling stoves, with extra time and money on their hands, Jean-Jack—probably the most passionate of the family members when it comes to basketball—came up with an idea: what if they mapped out a season-long trip to watch all 30 NBA teams and visit every arena in the league.
“My husband is full of ideas,” Stephanie says. “Sometimes they’re good. Sometimes they’re not. This one, was particularly good.” And so, the Largerons decided to plan their trip for the 2019-20 NBA season.
Many of you have probably been on road trips before, but likely not a trip that involves traveling to every single NBA city over the course of a basketball season. “We are not very adventurous people,” Stephanie admits. “We didn’t realize how this experience would be.”
The journey began last October in New York, where the family decided to rent an RV and drive across North America. Jean-Jack and Stephanie took turns as the family spent 20 hours traveling from New York to Minnesota.
“We drove 5,000 miles,” Stephanie says. “Sometimes when you are in the city, and you see the reflection of the RV in the mirror of buildings you drive by, you’re just like, wow.”
From Minnesota, the family drove to Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia. The Largerons call themselves NBA En Famille online. They’ve posted photos on Instagram at each stop to keep friends and family updated on their adventure. At each stop, they’ve captured their experiences both in the arena and as they travel around the city on YouTube.
Their favorite NBA stop so far has been in Toronto (full disclosure: Jean-Jack and Stephanie told me this before realizing I live here, so I believe them). “The people are very welcoming,” Stephanie says. The Largerons got to meet Chris Boucher and Frank Ntilikina before a Knicks-Raptors game, and took photos courtside with Nav Bhatia, the Raptors superfan. They also did a bit of sight-seeing in the city. Their adventures in Toronto were documented in this video on their YouTube channel.
As word-of-mouth about their adventures have spread, they’ve started to meet some of their followers in different cities. In Toronto, Jean-Jack and Stephanie met up with some French and Belgium followers of theirs who have been tracking their journey on social media. The Largerons are hoping that what they’re documenting on the trip can give basketball fans back home a glimpse at what these NBA cities are like. Just as Jean-Jack once dreamed of what being able to watch NBA games regularly would be like, he can now share this experience with people back home.
The league also became aware of what the Largerons are doing, and contacted all 30 teams to let them know of their itinerary. At different stops, teams have helped accommodate them to meet players before games. Those experiences have been eye-opening. “In France, the most popular sport is soccer,” Stephanie explains. “You can’t meet with them. They’re too famous. In the NBA, it’s different.”
Jean-Jack has been overwhelmed by these player meetings, but there’s one particular player he watched growing up that he would love to interact with when he gets to Los Angeles. “If I meet Magic Johnson,” he says, “It’s possible I will cry.”
The trip to Los Angeles will have to wait. During the holidays, the Largerons returned home to France. They will be attending the first ever NBA regular season game in Paris between Charlotte and Milwaukee on Jan. 24. And then, it’s back on the road.
The remaining itinerary will take them to Charlotte, Washington, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Chicago for All-Star Weekend, and then San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Denver, Phoenix, Utah, Portland, Sacramento and San Francisco before they finally arrive in Los Angeles to watch both the Lakers and the Clippers in April as the regular season wraps up.
Jean-Jack and Stephanie have thought about extending their trip into the playoffs, but do admit they miss being home. Regardless, it will have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they hope that when their kids grow up, they will cherish and appreciate this journey even more. Esteban and Jehann, the two older kids, already play organized basketball back home, and have become huge NBA fans as well. While Stephanie takes two hours each day when they travel to provide home schooling to her children, she also wants them to take in a family trip of a lifetime.
“This isn’t just a basketball experience,” Stephanie says. “It’s a life experience.”
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