Caden would like for you to know how tough he is. He sports his Mohawk fiercely, and speaks a little lower in tone. He tells you he's got game. And then, at the last second, the irresistible force of nature that cries, "I'm six!" bursts from deep within him.
Monday, November 5, 2012
The first gym was packed with cars. I figured I had hit the right spot, so I ambled in hoping to see some decent talent on the court to revive my game. I was instantly bemused by the sight of an all-Hispanic girls basketball league at this location. I actually watched for a few moments as a 5’4” speedster drained shot after shot for her team. She’s someone to keep an eye out for, I thought. “A que hora del final juegos?” I asked the lady next to me. She told me they played until the gym closed. We talked for a few moments about how interesting it was for her to see a white man speak her language. I told her my story of Los Angeles, living in “el barrio,” and how much I needed to practice the second language that I love. She smiled and wished me, “buena suerte!” I thanked her and made my way to the door.
I spoke with an older gentleman who was manning the desk and he told me to go to the gym on Saxon Street. With a smirk he let me know I’d probably find a little better competition there, too. I thanked him for both tips and set out to see if there was really a game to be found.
I pulled into the parking lot and saw what I was looking for. Several guys were milling around the door waiting to be let in. They were jovial, talking about a friend who was missed while awaiting trial and another who had blown his knee out. I sat in the car, taking it all in, glad to see four or five guys around my height of 6’7”. I was the only white guy there, which suited me fine. I remember well the days of 14th and Jackson in Winston-Salem where I was always most welcome. I made a lot of friends that way, and miss them still. These were the guys I wanted to hoop with. My boys Flagge Stanfield, Andy Snow, Joe Thomas, and Darrel Schnoes know what it’s like. The best runs in town back in the day. If you had a game, and could back it up on the court, you’d be welcome. And respected. I figured I’d give it a shot. I felt good, track shoes and all. One more shot at hoops glory.
Another older gentleman arrived and stepped out of his pick-up truck with keys in hand. I figured it was time to go in. As I approached the door one tall lanky guy in long dreads gave me a nod. Another shorter athletic guy greeted me. “What’s up, Big Country?” I nodded back, now beginning to feel a bit nervous about my game. I signed in after waiting at the back of the line of twenty guys and stepped onto the court. Some guys stretched. Others began to shoot and make lay ups. The taller guys dunked and yelled. All of them were half my age, maybe a little older. I would have to work to show I still had a little game left.
After about a minute of watching them shoot around a rebound fell out to me. I picked up the ball and dribbled around my back and through my legs a few times, thankful I didn’t bounce it off my feet. At this point I was five feet behind the three-point line. I decided to let it ride.
“Uh, oh! Big Country can shoot!”
I proceeded to drain three more in a row before finally missing. I then dunked one with one hand.
It must have looked easy to them, but it took everything I had to get up there, unlike days gone by.
Two guys were selected as Captains to choose teams. The shorter of the two looked at me with his first pick and said, “I got Big Country. Dude look like he played some semi-pro or something.” A moment later the teams were set. I was the only player over 6’2” on my team. I guess they figured I could handle it down low. The guy guarding me was 6’5” and there was a 6’6” guy, too, but he was an outside player and pretty thin. One of my teammates alerted me that my guy loved to bang down low and played pretty rough. It was like a symphony to my ears. I was thrilled.
We traded baskets the first 3-4 possessions. I had yet to shoot in the game but was posting vigorously and enjoying the shoving match with my friend down low. He was not nearly as tough as advertised and soon let up as he surely recognized I had a good 100 pounds on him. He was quick, though, and I struggled to stay with him. It was a decent match, I suppose. We probably broke even when it was all said and done.
My first possession I spun, drove to the hole, and was fouled hard. I got the message. Our point guard stated he was coming right back to me, but he passed it to his buddy on the wing for a 3-pointer. Swish. The next trip down he found me. Catch. Spin. Ball fake. Hammer it through his arms. And one. I proceed to score the next five baskets in a close game. Playing to 14 I knew it was going to be close and soon found it was tied at 12. I again was given the ball at the free throw line. I turned, spun into the lane, and went up hard.
That was it. That was the moment. My lower back felt like someone had stabbed me with a sharp dagger. The arm that raked across mine had mimicked my picking up what seemed like a half ton pickup truck. It was a "no blood, no foul" type of contest, so I didn’t call it. The other team raced down the court, put up a three, and it was over, just like that. We sat there dejected. I could barely stand up straight, but I didn’t want to show it. “Good game, big man,” was the reply I received from both teams and a few on the sidelines. I had played well, and earned respect. I got a few hugs, a few handshakes, and a few requests to “stick around for one more.” But I knew I was done. I was looking at a few days of pain and rest. “Ol' man gotta jet,” I said. They laughed with me and told me to come back during the week. They play every night. I told them I’d do my best and left feeling good about the game, but bad about my short comeback. I knew it was time to forget all of this foolishness and hang the shoes up for good. Even if they were track shoes.
The doctor this morning said about as much. “Go hiking with your boys,” he recommended. “It’s far safer for a man your age. Get a bicycle, too. One that fits your long legs so your knees don’t ache.” He is 74-years old, and far wiser than his younger peers. A Cortisone shot and a couple of muscle relaxers later I can actually stand up half way straight again, but surely have a few more days to get right. And I’m going to take his advice. There’s adventure to be found, and I think it’s with my children. And there’s glory to be found, but that rests with God, not me.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Saturday, March 31, 2012
I took Caden to the local sporting goods store to spend some of his allowance. He had just one item on his agenda: a headband and wristband set. He found this black Nike set for a bargain price. He knows that he needs to both have a game and look like he has a game. I think he has accomplished both at the young age of six.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Friday, March 2, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012
Gabe Dunking on a 9'2" goal - 12 years old and 6'3". a video by Joe Jon! on Flickr.
In flip flops. With ease.