As a young kid, transplanted from an overseas military community, to the rural outcroppings of a Midwestern Minnesota township, I recall the hours I spent alone in my driveway imagining myself as the next Jordan or mini-KG. One of my favorite imaginative role-plays was to create legendary fictional one-on-one matchups and play them out live providing the play by play as I simultaneously threw one down on my 8 foot rim with a mini-basketball (okay maybe it was seven feet). Generally I would set up short mini-bracket tournaments of four to eight players and play out each matchup as if there were someone guarding me. Generally, these matches weren’t fixed (unless it was a total mismatch), as one player would always seem to be missing his jumper. There were heroic contests, generally KG v Jordan, or Bird v Olajuwon that I remember being especially riveting.
Soon my aspirations grew and I felt the pressing desire for something more; someone to share this growing passion within me, and thus the NBL (Neighborhood Basketball League) was born. The league was already underway across town when I learned of its existence, and I knew instantaneously that this was an association that I must gain membership to. At the time, I was not considered a person anyone would want on their team, so I was relegated to scorekeeping, which was a necessary duty none-the-less. The league was run by a well-intentioned nerd (much like myself; although he was a lesser player on all counts), who was quite insistent on the consistency of the stats book. It was him who spent laborious durations of his existence in detailing the points, rebounds, assists, blocks turnovers, 3-pt field goals, and shooting percentages for all 50 players in the league. These reports were handwritten of course, and updated weekly. On top of this courageous feat, the man also undertook extensive refereeing duties, which expectedly caused consistent conflict with most players in the league. Teams consisted of three players and one backup, a position I was able to attain through extensive networking and dutiful work as a stat keeper. Thus, my basketball career was born, and there was nothing, short of an ACL tear, that would prevent me from realizing my dream.
My career in the NBL was short lived however, due to an altercation between the league’s commissioner and a disagreeable player, which resulted in the resignation of the commissioner. His resignation signaled the beginning of the end to the league, as his other duty, which included scheduling locations and game times was regarded by other league members (myself included) as too time consuming. Thus, a month long run and five total games, in which, my playing time was woefully inadequate, ended and I was left broken and battered.
The details of the next steps in my career included a ninth grade basketball stint on the school’s team, which resulted in my capitulation and abandonment of the team. This decision originated from an altercation between the coach of the team (who at the time I regarded as a cretin and a fool), and my friend and I. We were sitting at the end of the bench (as was common for a 15th man), and the coach became enraged at how our team was conducting itself on the court. The game seemed to be slipping away quickly, so he made the decision to pull two players from the court. He walked down the bench to assess his options, and he stopped for a second in front of us. My friend (who was somewhat of a dope and in competition with me for the 14th man) began laughing uncontrollably at the unprecedented idea of our coach admitting the two of us into the competition. I was amused at this reaction and began chuckling myself. Our manager, however, was not amused, and thusly kicked us out of the game to the locker room. I considered this to be rude and uncivilized, as did my friend, so we decided that it was best for us to cut our ties to this organization.
I went on to frequent various intramural ventures, which I found to be much more satisfying and less rigorous than the organized dictatorships that I had attempted in the past. To this day, the random pick up game, or the lonely concrete park court is where I find my love for the game. I discovered, in my career, that although I never received the accolades and adoration from the masses, it was altogether more enjoyable to be in my driveway with a few companions, as we realized our love for the game.