(Updated from 2021)
Tony Bonanno, was, essentially, an idol to me. If you grew up in the 1970s in Berks County and you loved basketball, you followed Reading High School. Period. End of story. And if you followed Reading High back then, you knew who Tony Bonanno was.
He was sometimes the smallest player on the court, but he was always the smartest. He was never much of a scorer, but there was never a player on the court who was more important. Bonanno had a great handle and played with flair, but he was also one of the most solid and sound point guards I’ve ever seen.
I was 11-years old when Tony graduated from Reading High, but by the time he played his final game there, he had shown me how it was done. He showed me what I had to do, how I had to play … to even sniff the level he was at.
Tony didn’t control games, he orchestrated them. He didn’t need to score, though, if need be, he could. He was a perfect mix of flashy and fundamental, though he never would have played at Reading High if he were more the former than the latter. Dude had pizazz and charisma!
To me, Tony was the original “pass first” point guard, and because I loved his game, that’s what I tried to become, too. Of course, there’s a joke in there about how I failed to properly emulate Tony in the passing department, but believe me, I tried.
I loved everything about Tony Bonanno, and without him, I wouldn’t love the game of basketball as much as I do now. Hell, I’m still living and loving basketball and Tony started me down that path. RIP Tony Bonanno. You had no idea of how often I thought about you. And still do.