LAFAYETTE — This weekend’s theme is “Gone, but never forgotten.”
I’m not from this area — nowhere even remotely close to it, actually. I didn’t grow up hearing about Kim Perrot’s legend, or about how she was claimed much too early by cancer. But all it took was a couple of minutes to be enveloped by her memory and lasting impact.
A banquet was held Friday night at the Petroleum Club, where people gathered to share their favorite, most uplifting memories of Kim’s life. There were a lot of them. The event lasted two and a half hours before this reporter departed early to make deadline. There were still several speakers left to go, including Kim’s family.
Before the banquet, I posted up next to a table where Kim’s various plaques and awards from her playing days were on display. Acadiana’s native daughter racked up a lot of hardware in her days, but that’s not really what this weekend is about.
What it’s really about is what happened next. A woman named Margaret approached with a pair of old scrapbooks — obviously still from the days when scrapbooks were still kept. Kim’s days.
Margaret was not a speaker at the event. She did not have a seat at one of the many tables packed with people. The only reason I even knew Margaret’s name was because she was a member of the Petroleum Club staff and was wearing a name tag.
But Margaret — whose maiden name I later found out was Narcisse, but she has since married — offered me a glimpse of Kim Perrot’s importance. She grew up in the same inner-city neighborhood as Kim and, in Margaret’s eyes, Kim will always be an excitable young girl who was constantly sprinting headlong down the street, always smiling, always so polite.
I didn’t introduce myself as a reporter, didn’t have a notebook out; I was just a guy looking at some trophies. Margaret just started telling her stories about young Kim Perrot to a complete stranger because a young, smiling, excited Kim Perrot has always stuck with her.
Maybe Margaret noticed that I was there to learn. She placed the scrapbooks down on each end of the table, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “There’s a lot of history in here. It’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
The floral-themed scrapbook is chronological. The first black, construction-paper page features a yellowed news clipping titled “Perrot paces win by Acadiana girls.” She scored 29 points in that game. She would score a lot more before she was done.
The clipping is framed by four pictures of a young Perrot, one of which shows her with an almost impossibly wide smile as she held up a basketball in the classic triple-threat stance.
It moves from her high school career to her college career, where she dazzled as the Lady Cajuns’ unstoppable 5-foot-5 dynamo. It shows her in action — usually scoring. It shows her in more candid moments, goofing off in the locker room.
Taped to the black background next are color photos of Kim in various odd-looking uniforms from her European playing days. Kim graduated from college before the WNBA came into existence, but she never left basketball.
These newspaper clippings are written in foreign languages.
It then chronicled her years as a Houston Comet, where she essentially walked on before winning a couple of championships as a starter. It included one magazine ad that said “The Perrot flies without a lot of squawk.”
Since there’s no hiding from the terrible truth, it included news clippings from when she discovered a tumor growing inside her body. It included news clippings from when she died six months later, at age 32.
And, in true Kim Perrot fashion, that wasn’t where the scrapbook ended. It showed people mourning Kim’s loss, it showed Kim’s teammates winning another WNBA championship in honor of her, it showed major awards being named in Kim’s name. It showed her lasting legacy.
Hopefully there’s still room in those scrapbooks.
Kim was honored again Saturday. Her uniform has been retired for some time now, but now her name hangs in the rafters of the Cajundome, the banner unveiled at halftime of the women’s team’s win against South Alabama.
The Cajundome went silent — I mean, pin-drop silent — as a video with Kim Perrot highlights played on the videoboard.
Necks craned. Everyone paid attention.
That number included Perrot’s family, gathered near the baseline in white shirts that read “Team Perrot” on the back — some emblazoned with Kim’s No. 12, some with Kim’s silhouette on the front.
The Cajundome erupted into cheers and a standing ovation when a shadowbox with Kim’s uniform was presented to Kim’s family. Both Consuella, Kim’s mother, and Loretta Perrot-Hunter, Kim’s sister, sobbed when the uniform was presented to them.
It’ll continue over the next couple of days. Kim’s old WNBA coach, Van Chancellor, will be in town Sunday for a parade.
He’ll stay for Monday, when the court at the Martin Luther King Center near Kim’s old elementary school — where Kim first crossed up the boys and girls trying to defend her — will be renamed Kim Perrot Court.
This weekend has never been about remembering Kim Perrot, but rather recognizing how and why she has managed to never be forgotten.