After two days of threats, I finally did it. I found a place in Tuscaloosa to play basketball, the Bower’s Park Rec. For a five spot, I got full access to the gym. It was kind of dark, and there was some question as to whether the AC was working, but the baskets were ten feet off the floor and the balls bounced. There was a ragged game of side, full court on one side of the gym and an atrocious game of two on two on the other. I went to a side court basket and got some shots up for about forty minutes until the opportunity play came.
I walked down to the other end anticipating a side, full court run which would suit me fine. I could push the ball in transition or throw it ahead to create easy baskets for my team, and become a beloved figure. FML. We settled on 4 v 4 in the half court. Half court basketball can be fun, but the joy is in the action of the players, posting, flashing, screening to create easy points. My concerns were justified on the first possession when I caught the ball on the wing, and my three teammates stood dead in their tracks. With no movement, I used a shot fake and drove past my man drawing the help defender, and dumped to the now unguarded post player, who was still motionless and quite perplexed that I passed to him. The ball hit his hands and went out of bounds. A few possessions later, I caught the ball in the high post, and virtually begged my teammate on the weak side of the floo to go back door. He did, and I hit him with a bounce pass, but he missed the open lay up. The game literally stopped for three minutes to discuss my “great” pass, and how his lack of anticipation resulted in the lay up. It felt like the cavemen stumbling upon fire.
At this point the concept of team play, which I alone seemed to espouse, was comprehensively beaten, leaving only hero ball in it’s place. Hero ball, as practiced by Kobe Bryant and other lesser lights, is to obtain the ball at least twenty feet from the basket with your eyes transfixed on the basket or your defender for a sufficient time to convince your team that there is no purpose in doing anything other than getting out of the way and to attack by way of drive or contested jump shot all that is before you. The best practitioners of this craft will hit enough of these awful shots to imbue them with a delusional self-confidence to continue. The worst will occupy a solitary defeated island on which they are left without help, but for their own inner drive and fighting spirit.
I do not shy away from the last shot, but I do not play hero ball. It offends me and the game. I want the ball in my hands at the end of a game, because I know I will play with the team and make sure the final shot is the best shot available.
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