Basketball Treck, Part III:
[In a note that is completely unrelated to this post, what does “the cream of the fight” mean anyway? I never stopped to really listen to the lyrics to this fantastic song, and now that I am reading its lyrics, I can’t help but think, much of this song doesn’t make sense! If there is a “last known survivor,” how can there be any “prey” left to stalk? Anyway… back to the post…]
In seventh grade, I worked up the nerve to try out for the middle school basketball team. This would mark the first time trying out for anything; the Asian league participation required no official evaluation of talent. I was nervous.
I had no idea what to expect. But, if tryouts were held like a job interview, and each applicant had to submit a resume that included one’s experience and honest assesment of their skills, mine would have read as follows:
Weight: 115 lbs
Summary of Relevant Experience:
- Watched countless games of pick-up three on three basketball at, the city-famous, Live Oak Park between the year I was potty trained and the year I learned how to cook Top Ramen noodles all by myself
- Tied for third leading scorer over the course of three years on the worst Asian league basketball team to ever grace the Bay Area nine to eleven year-old division
- Played sporadically during lunch-time for the past year and a half.
Summary of Relevant Skills/Talent:
- In a gym without spectators, and nobody in way, with feet and elbow lined up perfectly, on a day when stomach does not hurt from, (then) undiagnosed, lactose intolerance-related reaction to multiple slices of pizza, without P.E.-induced fatigue from earlier in the day, and a little luck, might make 50% of shots within ten feet of the basket.
- Can run as fast as one’s seventy-five year-old arthritic grandmother can walk (without her walker)
- Can jump over a six-pack of Sprite without tripping (most of the time)
- Competence dribbling with right hand–through legs, around the back, spin move, etc. (on occasion with head up and looking at surroundings)
- Near-complete incompetence dribbling with left hand
- Can pretend to play defense (Legitimate defense is actually a mirage, and cannot be counted upon).
Lucky for me, try-outs did not require a resume submission.
Now while I do not think my talent and size gave me too much of an edge, it turned out I actually had a few things going for me. First, my Asian league basketball experience actually gave me a small advantage. I had already bumbled through three years of elementary basketball drills. I knew the correct footwork to the defensive slide zigzags, how to pass and “screen away,” make a chest pass, complete a bounce pass, shoot a lay-up off of the correct foot, come to a complete jump-stop, etc. Demonstration of these skills was part of tryouts! Secondly, I was good a following directions; I could run plays correctly, which was more than that which could be said for seventy percent of the kids at try-outs. I was relatively “fundamentally sound,” which is often times code for unathletic as well.
Well, being untalented, yet relatively “fundamentally sound,” didn’t earn me placed on the A-team that year, however, it must have saved me from getting cut. I made the C-team, which had a height restriction (I think you had to be 5’8 or below). The seventh grade C-team was short on height (obviously due to the height restrictions), but we were a team of players that followed directions really well.
Where as the seventh grade A and B teams were stacked with far more talent, they would often times have problems running the plays. Many of the players liked to freelance and try to create shots on their own like they did at lunch time. Sometimes this worked, but often times, it did not. Our team had few, if any, delusions of greatness. We would run the plays until we got a decent shot, or until we lost the ball due to being a collection of semi-inept ball handlers. I guess you would call us a group of “coachable” players with underwealming talent.
Despite our considerable lack of talent, we actually won more games than we lost. This would be the first team I was ever a part of with a winning record. Our team beat every team with equal or lesser talent because we out executed them. And we lost to nearly every team that had a greater abundance of talent, since our execution could not overcome teams that were considerable stronger and faster than us.
Did this mean our team had a fighting spirit and maturity that exceeded our years? Alas, the answer to that question would be, no. We showed no signs of cowardice throughout the season, and we were fairly poised all the way up to the league tourneyment. Then we fell behind a bit in the second round game.
Our coach, Ray, called a time out with us down by five points in the third quarter, and layed into us.
“What are you all doing! You are-not… EXECUTING!” He yelled. “You’re better than this! Look, they are packing in their two-one-two zone. Run ‘Cobra,” or ‘X.’ It’s simple. run these plays and you should have Bruce open in the corner, or Darma in the post.”
Then, in attempt to accentuate his point and inspire us, he asked us all, what he thought was, a rhetorical question, “Do you want to WIN, or do you just want to goof around and have FUN?”
To his surprise, we all yelled in unison, “HAVE FUN!”
Ray paused for a moment in shock, sighed, pulled out his whipe board, and then said, “Okay,” drawing up a set with five circles to represent the players in the game, “Dharma (our center, who wasn’t the best ball handler), you’re going to the throw a back door alley-oop on this play to… who’s our smallest player? Jamie. You’re going to throw the alley-oop to Jamie…”
From that point forward, the game completely deteriorated to some of the ugliest basketball I have ever been a part of. Our somewhat beautiful team-oriented basketball morphed into the antithesis of our team–a conglomerate of individuals out to get theirs. We lost by who knows how much, and we were knocked out of the tourneyment.
Yup… we “demonstrated of a complete lack of discipline and competativeness during the most meaningful game of the season.” What a great addition to my basketball resume.