Basketball

1979, just a six-year old boy with big hair swinging the ball between my legs, granny style. It began there, in what they called extended day, the after school place for kids with working parents. The court wasn’t much, just a rim really, some loose asphalt, the Wilson ball and me. I took shot after shot; the repetitive motion was golf without the green grass, without the irons, without the country club. Three years later I’m wearing the YBA jersey, two hands shooting the ball for a team. Summer of ‘84 began the deep amor, the nights with Lorenzo and Horace, when they let me play in the counselor games after the other kids were asleep in their bunks. We played outside; the older guys would leave me open on the baseline, while the luna moths and mosquitoes swirled around the lights in rural Virginia. My dad put up a hoop in our driveway, the makeshift cracked court flanked by a rock wall on one side, a brick one on the other. I’d play one on one against Tim or Jack, we’d shoot from deep or get to the rack fast, otherwise the walls were immovable arm scraping defenders. Then there was Dematha’s basketball camp, where I met Danny Ferry, made an all-star team. Basketball moved into high school and much later to pick-up games with the students that I taught. What did it mean? What does it mean? Basketball was my ocean, the place where my body collided with the surf of other bodies, shaped by the angles of elbows, big butts boxing out, where a finger wag meant you had met someone’s swish, witnessed their hours of practice. I threw myself into the game like the mosh pit that it was, threw myself into the organized chaos of Latinos, Asians, African Americans, and White dudes rebounding, sweating, swearing. It was our game; it is still my game, playing PIG with my daughter, watching the Warriors. The global game, you and the basket, or you and the team, harmony, jazz, equality.

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