I’ve always loved to play basketball. From the moment that first made shot whispered through the rope (4th grade) I was hooked. I’m also a Laker fan dating back to the sixties.
Playing the game has always been pure pleasure for me. I recall shooting away on the basketball courts in the school next to where I lived, until darkness forced me inside. As I got older I discovered pick-up games in my neighborhoods, and always played my heart out in them.
My best basketball buddy fanatic is Larry who I went to high school with. We played many classic pick-up games, but there’s one in particular I’m going to share with you:
First, this is a true story. After I got out of the Army in 1971 we went to a gym in La Mirada, California, hoping for some b-ball action. At first, it was just us on one half court and a few people on the other. They weren’t interested in playing with us. We really didn’t let that bother us as we were both in a great mood. And why not? We’d dropped a hit of Orange Wedge acid a half hour earlier and were starting to “come on” to the trip.
That’s when two older men walked in carrying gym bags. They came right up to us and asked if we’d like to play some two-on-two and we said okay. What followed was a surreal experience. Even today when we talk bout this unusual game, it’s hard to recall all of the details. I know, no surprise.
So there we were, playing these two guys and they’re roughing us up! Throwing elbows and aggressive screens, they took an early lead. Not sure how much. At one point, as Larry and I were watching the ball, we could see “follow-ups” like something out of a cartoon. We asked for a time out and got one. As we stood there, sweat pouring down our t-shirts, we tried to get a hold on all of the pretty little colors that seemed to have sprung up everywhere. As our opponents headed for the water fountain, we heard one say, “Good job Sarge…” the rest a blur! We looked closer at their bags up against the gym wall. Sheriff logos. Oh no. What to do?
They came back and we resumed the game. Not sure what happened. Either we temporarily “came down” off our highs, or were inspired to play the best two-on-two basket of our lives. The upshot: we beat them. can’t tell you the score, but we did beat them. Their shock at the turnaround in our suddenly inspired play was complete.
When I was in my late 40s, I tried to get Sports Illustrated to do a piece on me playing in a basketball camp sponsored by the LA Lakers. By then, I could barely jump. One dislocated knee, two broken ankles, numerous back injuries, and all. I thought it would make a good humor article. They didn’t, but sent me a nice letter politely declining my offer.
Haven’t been able to play the game since my back surgery in 1995 when I got stainless steel rods put in to hold it together. I still watch the game, and dream about the days when I played.
Finally, this little news item caught my attention today. I sure wish I could have been up to playing in this pick-up game!
President Barack Obama received 12 stitches in his lip after being hit during a pick up basketball game, the White House said on Friday.
"After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the president received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, according to NBC News. Gibbs did not release the names of the people playing with the president.”