When I tell people I like to play basketball, they immediately laugh. They laugh before they can even think about what they are laughing about. My response is usually something along these lines.
“Do you realize how offensive you’re being?
It makes sense to me, though. I look something like a depressed French-ish poet (on a good day), so it’s shocks them to believe that I’m remotely competent in a sport that requires coordination, speed, strength and athletic IQ.
A lot of people say that the way you play basketball is reminiscent of your personality. Although the same case can be made for just about anything—(examples, the way you drive, the way you make money)—let’s play with this for a moment. Alright. I’m an egotistical, self-absorbed dramatic dude. In turn, when I play basketball, I am an absolute diva. I’m convinced that the entire offense should revolve around me. To not pass to me is to ultimately lose. If I don’t get the ball for an extended period of time, I’ll do something stupid, like kick a gate, or yell at people. These are the things my mind tells me when I play.
I also get deeply therapeutic when I play—not therapeutic as in commending myself—no, there’s no room for optimism in this head—but in that I imagine my therapist questioning me about my motives in basketball: Why do you trip out so much when people don’t pass you the ball? Why do you insist on being a scorer rather than going along with the team? Is this the self-obsession the shrink was talking about taking form?
The mind tells me these things, but statistics prove otherwise. I’m a slightly above average player, not a whole lot more. My defense is pretty atrocious—having me defend you is basically like playing ball against an imaginary defender when you were a kid. Maybe even worse, because sometimes I notice that my simple presence on defense gives the opposition extra confidence in what they can do. Players who can hardly shoot during warmups sometimes come at me, four feet behind the three point line, chucking it up. And they get nothing but net. My rebounding is also pretty bad. I steal sometimes, I block never.
Offensively, I think I’m gifted. I’m something like a mesh between Jamal Crawford and Jimmer Fredette. By Jamal Crawford, I suggest that sometimes I can whip out some crazy, totally ball-stopping but freaking awesome moves—and it sometimes goes in. Everybody’s going, dude, just pass, but I’m all convinced I’ll hit this seventeen foot fadeaway. By Jimmer, it’s probably got something to do with the name similarity. Also, I don’t know what it is, but sometimes, when I’m feeling it, anywhere from five to ten feet behind the three point line, I’ll just think: this shit’s going up, there’s no way I’m missing. Usually, when I follow my instincts truthfully, it goes in. I don’t know why. I hear the crowd gasp when I do this. And when it goes in, they all say “woah.” I’m saying it inside, too, of course, but act as if it’s the most normal, commonplace of results. Hence, Jimmer.
In reality, I’m a fairly solid shooter. You don’t want me having open threes. My midrange is mediocre, and now and then I develop this tear drop, which I use when I get people to bite on my three pointer pump fake.
I appreciate the reaction I get every time my buddies and I head to the local recreation center for our games. We are a team of Semitic Middle easterners, all skinny, not too tall, taking on a team whose full of ex-football players, or current football players, sometimes people who resemble ex-convicts, and other forms of intimidating males. Before jump, when we shake hands, one of them will be caught off guard. They’ll look me up and down, from my John Stockton shorts, my high socks (which are usually purple), legs as thick as a child’s, and hair tied up in a little ponytail that isn’t long enough to settle backwards, so just makes a little knot at the top of my head. They look me up and down.
“Hello,” I say. “I hope we have fun today.”
“What?” these six-foot-four bro’s ask.
On the next play, I find that I am incredibly wide open. Nobody thinks I can ball. Again, this is basketball, not poetry or painting. My point guard throws it my way. I let it fly, getting a nice open look. I drain it. A few minutes later, still wide open, I’ll get another look and hit it. This is where the fun ends, unfortunately. Not only does the opposing squad catch on, but they overrate me. I observe that they’ve started to think I’m a European phenom of sorts, who just happens to be little and dress weird. They shout amongst each other: “Who’s guarding the sharp shooter?” “C’mon!” “Don’t leave him open!”
The next thing I know their best player bro is sticking on me like glue and I can’t even get open to catch a pass, let alone score. This is when I leave it up to the better players on my squad. I’ve done my part. I spread the defense. The truth is, I’m a skinny Shooting Guard who can sometimes drain like it’s nobody’s business, but I can’t compete with bros hovering at six-three.
The whole thing’s pretty great, though. After watching the World Cup, it just made me realize how superior of a sport basketball is. Each time a player missed the goal and put his hands in his face, I kept thinking, God, in basketball you can actually score sometimes. I don’t think it would require much argument to believe that basketball is the greatest sport today to play. You can make the case that the NFL trumps the NBA, but playing basketball is unmatched. Everybody gets their chance to do their thing.