NBL1 West 2022: South West Slammers to honour club icon James Fitch on Saturday night
There are legendary playmakers who have graced courts throughout SBL/NBL1 West history, but one man transcends them all — James Fitch.
A man who arrived in WA from the US with just a suitcase and the shirt on his back, Fitch not only became one of the fiercest offensive threats in WA State basketball history — averaging more than 30 points per game — but he built a loving family and fondness for the South West.
On Saturday night, the South West Slammers will formally recognise Fitch’s deeds, when they will immortalise his retired playing singlet in front of past teammates and well wishers.
While Fitch is excited about reuniting with many people he has not seen in a long time, there is one person who is likely to be watching the ceremony from heaven.
Ricardo Boyd, Fitch’s best friend from Mississippi and a former Slammers teammate, died last September from illness. Ahead of the ceremony, the Slammers icon said he would give anything for Boyd to be there.
“You know, out of all the people who are going to be there, he will truly be the one I am missing,” Fitch said.
“He will always be in my heart and always be in my soul. Both of our journeys started together back in 1987 and that journey never ends until ... well, I do not think that journey is ever going to end until I meet him again.
“I feel strongly about that.”
Steve Butler, a reporter with The West Australian, worked closely with Fitch during his days with the South Western Times sports department.
A close friend of Fitch, Butler recalls the first day Fitch touched down in Bunbury.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “He came into town and the first thing he wanted to do was being taken to a paddock to see a kangaroo.
“And then straight after that, we took him down the main street of Bunbury and our photographer Andy Niblett took a timeless shot of the biggest James Fitch grin that we have all come to love, running down the main street with his suitcase and Idaho t-shirt on.
“It just showed how adaptable he was.
“Fitchy would do anything to promote the Slammers. When he was leading the steals in the competition, we had him climbing into former captain Stan Willis’ bedroom window with a video, to promote the fact he was leading the steals.
“When it was the 4th of July, we had him dressed up in that much US paraphernalia … it was incredible.”
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