I played a basketball game before the Super Bowl yesterday. Reggie Jackson of the Detroit Pistons coached the kids. He was a great sport. We had a good time. I am feeling it big time today. There are so many metaphors from the game that are applicable to other parts of my life. My friend Mike sent me this quote today: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17
Sam Kell, the kid in the middle with the shaved head (and cancer) played his heart out. The boys took us to double OT, and Sam hit the winning shot at the buzzer. Sam didn’t quit. We also didn’t let him win. He earned it. Sam has a lot of great friends who have become his brothers in the past year. I hope they never forget each other.
I hadn’t played a real game of basketball in 15 years. I hadn’t shot a basketball in 5 years. The last time I was wearing top siders shooting at an outdoor court in Sonoma Valley before wine tasting. My shot came back to me in warm ups with no problem. My muscle memory clicked. Thankfully, my nephew and I messed around on the sideline prior to get the feeling back before I tried it at a basket. Since I played before there was a three point line, I am always interested to see if I can sink them from out there. I can with regularity. I can still hit free throws at a better than 90% clip. It bugs me when I see players that have a FT percentage of less than 70%. I can’t remember exactly, but I shot around 44%-48% from the field when I played and around 94% from the line. My father was a coach, and he knew how to teach shooting. When I was recruited people would tell him, “Mr. Carter, your boy can shoot.” It’s too bad my feet weren’t super quick!
What was really interesting to me is that my instincts on defense came back to me. Mentally before the game I tried to get some recall going and all I thought about was offense. In the game, I was calling out picks, and playing “ball-you-man” without even thinking of it. I instinctively overplayed to a person’s strong hand. Some offensive moves came back-but where the mind was willing, the body was not. I made a move and floated into the lane. In the old days, my hand would have been pretty close to the rim and I would have laid it in. In this case I was so far away I flipped the ball up and hoped. It was hard to set my feet and position myself to shoot.
I was much worse at running than I thought I would be. I had zero wind. I could chock it up to being a bit above where my weight should be or the old school Puma Clyde’s I was wearing. The reality is I could have had LeBron James most recent shoe and been at my playing weight and it wouldn’t have mattered. My muscles still feel it tremendously today. My calf muscles especially. I never knew how much I used those muscles when I played. Virtually every time you push off, you use your calves all the way down to your achilles. My achilles were fine and I chalk that up to doing so much yoga. But, even yoga flexibility couldn’t get my legs to move when I wanted them to move. I lift weights at CityWideSuperSlow, and leg press 800 lbs, so I am strong enough. Before the game, I pulled one calf. Immediately when I got in, I pulled the other!
My friends Mike, Dan and I had played hours and hours of basketball together growing up. Dan and I started as sophomores on the varsity. Dan played at Michigan(1980-84). In my mind I remember how fluid he was on the floor. He was beautiful to watch, and really fun to play with. But, my eyes saw how he was struggling and so was I. A tortoise could have beaten us across the lane.
For me, it was certainly an enjoyable experience despite all the aches and pains. I am not sure I could say that for the 500-600 people in attendance. I don’t think I will ever play again. But, I really do miss the zen that I used to get shooting and sinking shot after shot. Rip, dribble, stop-pop rip, dribble, stop-pop, rip dribble stop-pop….I used to do that for hours and hours every day. The retirement home I go to will have to have a basketball hoop. And an automatic rebounder.
My only question today is this: Is Advil a food group?