Bill Weye

Tag: Basketball

Steve Nash – He’s got balls

Watching this ad directed by Steve Nash, professional basketball player and a pretty good soccer player (he grew up playing soccer), it made me wonder whether there has been any other person who’s had a ball either in their hand or on their foot more than Steve Nash? Think about it: the guy is always playing basketball and soccer; that’s a lot of time with a ball in his grasp.

Two Lessons Learned While Playing Basketball

Recently I learned two life lessons while playing my regular basketball game. At first I thought one of the lessons was just about being more competitive, but I have since thought about it and I think it translates into a life lesson. But before I get to the lessons, let me note that I learn a lot about life and myself while playing basketball; if you take the time to think about your actions and how you interact with others on the court, there are many lessons that present themselves.

First Lesson: making a “good shot” doesn’t necessarily mean you made the basket. There is a relationship between making a good shot and scoring two points, but it isn’t causal; plenty of bad shots are taken by basketball players that are made (these are often called “lucky” or “ill-advised” shots). What is a good shot? Taking a good shot means that I was in excellent position (square to the basket, balanced), had separation between myself and a defender, at a spot on the court where I am comfortable taking shots, and most importantly, for me, had good lift in my legs to produce a nice follow-through. If all those factors are positively accounted for I might score two points; I will definitely increase my shooting percentage the more good shots I attempt. The lesson to be learned? I’m not perfect. The best I can do is put myself in position to succeed (in this case success is defined as scoring two points), but the more often I can work to be in good position, the more likely I will succeed. If I can remember this when I’m not on the court, then my life will improve.

Second Lesson: if you want to be successful, make the other guy do what he doesn’t want to do. Now, that sounds hyper-competitive, and it probably is, but let me explain. I was matched-up with a player with superior skills to mine, and at first he was blocking my shots. However, when I discovered that he didn’t like to hustle on defense, chasing me around picks, I started to get open jumpers (which were dropping). If he didn’t do what was uncomfortable for him (play tight defense), then I was going to score.

But let me spin this another way: if I don’t do things that may be uncomfortable for me, then I won’t be a success either. What if I didn’t like taking outside jumpers, but instead wanted to drive to the basket (where this fellow would be waiting to block my shot)? For me to be successful I would have to do something that made me uncomfortable too.

And those are two lessons I learned playing basketball.

On The Court And On Fire

Playing basketball today, I was on fire. What does being “on fire” actually mean? For me being on fire means that I am moving around the court with ease, almost like I have helium in my shoes. My shots are falling from almost any angle when I am on fire; today I probably had 20 points, two of which came when I drove to the basket on a fast break, finishing with a running baby hook.

The furnace inside me–the one that keeps my basketball passion burning–never ebbs when I’m on fire. I don’t get tired when this fire burns. The game never seems to move fast enough for me, but at the same time I see plays develop before they happen–my mind slows the game down when I am on fire.

This feeling I only get playing basketball, sometimes, is addicting.

Ibuprofen and Basketball

I will turn 40 this year. That combined with the fact that I am not in the best physical condition has made it imperative that I use Ibuprofen before playing my regular basketball game. Well, I should take it before playing.

Today I was in a rush to get dressed and upstairs to play before I realized that the Ibuprofen was still in my locker, so I played without my regular dose of 600 mg. Ankles are funny things; I don’t think they’re supposed to feel like tennis balls, swollen knobs with feet coming out the other side.

Serious Basketball

My preparation to play basketball begins the night before the thrice weekly game when I pack my gear: shorts, shirt, socks, towel, jock. I bought shorts and socks made of polyester mesh especially for playing basketball; they won’t stick to my body like cotton. And the socks are dedicated to basketball too: extra thick to cushion the pounding my legs will take. I suffer from tendonitis in both legs, around the Achilles tendons, which began the Spring before being introduced to this basketball game. After treatment from a sports doctor and physical therapist that included three weeks in a Frankenstein-like walking boot, deep tissue messages, ice massages, ultrasound, stretching exercises, and strength-building exercises, I still hurt a year later. Especially in the morning before the blood circulates to my lower legs, I walk downstairs to the kitchen like a fifty year-old retired hockey player, hobbling along on my tender pins. Preparing these legs for basketball begins with four tabs of ibuprofen in the locker room, jumping rope five minutes, fifteen minutes of stretching, then a brief round of shooting jump shots—only to lessen the pain I’ll experience during the first five minutes of play. Yes, putting it together is an ordeal.

The fifteen to twenty men who play regularly, not including the undergraduate students who may join us—have their own preparation routine. Anyone who is not an undergraduate student stretches, some more than others; most take ibuprofen to abate swelling in the legs; some sprint forward, backwards and sideways, to loosen creaky knees; and we all take jumpers, testing and calibrating our shots before the game begins. These men—we’ve had some women play and welcome anyone with the desire—have many court miles on them and a history of injuries. Injuries are part of our reality. When playing basketball like it matters, injuries happen. Recently, while warming up for a game, this new guy came hobbling into the gym, receiving warm greetings from some old-timers, while others shook their heads incredulously, mumbling something like “holy shit, what the hell is he doing here.” Another what the fuck happened to this guy moments. With a hitch in his step, skipping up and down the court favoring his left leg, he had hip replacement surgery not long before—based on how he was running, not very long before—and he was back. Considering his gait made it appear like he was wrapped in a full body cast, it was obvious this dude had game. Without much lift from his legs, his shot was off; he couldn’t cover a fast break on defense; and his angles on defense weren’t the best because of poor lateral movement; but moving without the ball—which players are doing eighty or ninety percent of the time in a game—was his strength. Court sense, vision, seeing the play, are all part of being a good player without the ball; knowing where to be and how to get there—moving without the ball—is critical because you can either catch the ball for an easy basket or set your teammate up for an easy basket with good movement. Navigating the court well without the ball is the difference between being in a mosh pit and ballroom dancing. Players with significant experience in organized basketball move well without the ball, while others, like me, are less than consistent.

The regulars in this basketball game aren’t former professionals, nor even former collegiate players, though we take it that seriously. We can’t play like your favorite basketball celebrity, above the rim, shooting with equal abandon from the left or right hand, but we think it like such. Playing the game is important because it’s us, we’re in action on the court, not the latest sneaker endorser.

The 12 Noon Crew

About a year ago, a regular member of the pick-up basketball game that I play died after a long battle with cancer. Carlos E. Figueroa’s body was chipped-away by cancer (and the doctors), but before he left us Carlos wrote his sentiments in the form of a poem. The poem moved me and many of the other regulars because it reflects the spirit of the game, so I had a plaque engraved with the words; that plaque is mounted on a wall overlooking our court.

no matter how good, bad, slow or fast you are, there will always be a space for you to join the 12 noon crew, even if you have cancer.

if there was a place, a game, or thing that made my day, that would be the 12 noon crew.

if there was a thing that inspired me to go on, not to quit, and keep on fighting that would be the 12 noon crew.

if I were to rewrite my life, I would definitely have the 12 noon crew as part of my new life.

an angel is watching!

Graceful Feet

Not any clutz can play basketball well. You need a certain grace to move about the court without stepping on the toes of your teammates or defenders. This is what I realized today as my defender repeatedly stepped on my toes, blocked me with moving screens, and more or less moved like a wheelbarrow of bricks up and down the court. This guy has a thick body–muscular, not fat–but has never learned how to move his body gracefully in space.

Talking to another regular player of the Noon Time Crew, he agreed and wondered where we learn our basketball grace; neither one of us has ever played organized basketball, just many pick-up games, and we both move with relative ease around the court.

I need to think on this more . . .

The Look Away

I had a nifty play today in my regular pick-up basketball game. If you know the game, you’ll know the play: the look-away.

I was coming down the court on offense with a wing man on my left (a much better player than myself), and a couple of defenders in front of me (only one of which I had to worry about). As I approached the top of the key my wing man inched closer to the basket, which got the attention of my defender. At that point I made my defender commit to switching his defense towards the wing man by looking at the wing man and faking a pass to him–I continued running toward the basket–leaving a clear lane for me so I could drop a little floater in. Two points.

My point isn’t to brag–my wing man, the much better player–started to do that for me. He taunted the defender a little bit, which wasn’t too cool. I have about three fake moves in my pocket–like the look-away–that I can use. I don’t over-use them, so they work pretty often, but I am not so confident in my game that I taunt the guy I just made drop his shorts. I know my limitations, therefore I have to respect what other players can bring to the court.

Still, it was a nifty play.

Copyright © 2019 Bill Weye

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