Tag Archives: Basketball

What’s your passion?

What’s your passion? What gets you up in the morning? Well, besides the overwhelming need to pee. I should have phrased it a little better. What gets you out of your pajamas in the morning? Really? Eleven? Yeah, that’s still technically morning, but still, come on, that’s a little late. No, I’m just saying, that’s a big chunk of the day gone, right there. I mean, unless you work nights or something. Do you work nights? No?


OK, well, when you get out of your pajamas at eleven, what motivates you to brush your teeth, take a shower, to go tackle whatever is you’ve got to tackle? Yeah, OK, your dog needs to be walked, that’s valid. But is that your passion? Is that all you’ve got, your dog?

I always ask people, if you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do every day? Well, OK, really? Video games and movies on the couch, that’s it? Fine, what is it about video games that gets you going? Have you ever considered a career in video games? It’s not something you can do overnight, but maybe you could start off small, some programming courses here and there, a little intro to graphic design at night.

No? None of that sounds appealing? Well, yes, that’s a fair point. But do you honestly feel like you’re at the level where you’d be able to compete against professional gamers at the highest level? Because that’s what you’re talking about, right? Entering video game competitions? Are there cash prizes? I mean, are there people that make a living off of winning? How many?

I’m just thinking, is it like, “I want to be a professional basketball player?” Because sure, that’s a dream, but that’s one where you’ve got to be a little realistic. Like, if you really, really like basketball, but you’re kind of objectively looking at the possibilities that a guy in his early thirties might go from wherever he is right now all the way to the pros, it’s just … it’s one thing to chase your dreams, sure.

Well yeah, I was just using basketball as an example. In that case it’s really kind of easy to look at someone and tell them, listen, there’s not a lot of evidence or example that shows that there’s even a chance that a guy in your situation could go pro. I mean with video games, sure, age isn’t really a factor, but I mean … have you ever competed in any of these tournaments? No? Like if you play online in a randomly matched multiplayer, what are they chances that you’re going to come in the top ten percent?

OK, so facing those facts, do you really think that video games are your passion? I mean, is that how you’d treat something that you’re passionate about? Because I don’t think just casually spending your time on XBOX Live counts as a passion. And yeah, I see the number of hours you’ve accumulated, that’s … well, that’s a lot of hours. But it’s not impressive. That’s just spending time. That’s like taking a note of all of the meals you’ve eaten in the past five months and then telling me that you have a passion for eating.

All right, you know what? I’m just trying to do your mom a favor here, OK? You don’t have to be rude. Yeah, well, I don’t care if you don’t think Life Coach is a real job, I’m out there, I’m doing it, all right, whatever you’ve got going on here, this is definitely not a sustainable lifestyle. Oh yeah, great, well I disagree with you. Great, so, you know what? Why don’t you go … no, I’m just going to go. Good luck with everything, OK? I hope this all works out for you.

I hate to brag

I don’t want to brag, but I can totally slam-dunk. Like, I don’t need a running start, just give me the ball, get me right under the net, and it’s just, “Boom-shaka-laka!” just like from that old NBA Jam game, only in real life, and that’s really my voice, I just shouted it out, right as I was dunking. And I don’t care if this is just a friendly scrimmage, what, I don’t tell you to not shoot threes. And so what, if you don’t want to keep losing to me in HORSE, maybe you should learn how to dunk. Dunk. H. Dunk. O. I’m sorry, but I’m not even sorry, I’m just being polite, because there are plenty of short guys in the NBA that can dunk, so work on it, ride the exercise bike, I’ve heard that helps increase the vertical leap.


And I’m not trying to rub it in or anything, but did I tell you that I just got a huge bonus at work? And that was on top of that raise that I was telling you about last week. Like, I expected the raise to come in, that was a guarantee. And yeah, I guess I did expect the bonus too, but I didn’t want to brag, I’m trying to stay humble, to not let all of this money get to my head. Because it was a lot of money. Even if I were pretending to be humble, I wouldn’t really have to, the humbling was automatic, I was humbled by the size of that check, I was just like, “Woooow,” and my boss just stuck out his hand, “You earned it! Keep up the good work!”

Because dude, I am just killing it this year. Did I tell you about my trainer? Did I tell you about the feature they ran about me in Transactions magazine? Do read Transactions? Yeah, but did I tell you they’re planning on doing a follow-up? They’ve got me tagged as one of the top transactioners of 2013, and they set me up with this camera guy, it was like a whole photo shoot.

Yeah, you saw those guys on the sidelines, right? Could you tell they were there for me? It was like, there was this whole interview part of the article, we got past all of the transactioning questions, they were like, “So, what do you do in your free time? Any special talents?” and I was like, I started it out just like I was talking to you earlier, I said, “I don’t want to brag but … actually, don’t say that in the article, or put it in, but don’t make it sound too calculated. But I can totally slam-dunk.”

Basketball. That’s what I should have said. So yeah, that’s why I told them to come to our pick-up game. Was it too obvious that they were there for me? Was I hamming it up a little too much? I guess I didn’t have to dunk that often. The HORSE was totally unnecessary. I should have just come clean with you guys from the beginning, but I told the crew beforehand to take a bunch of photos of everyone else too.

So that’s why I was acting just as confused as you guys, like, “Why are these professional photographers here?” Which, man, since you’re telling me everyone basically knew it had to have been something to do with me, now I just feel a little disingenuous. And do you think those weird mock-confusion faces showed up on camera? Maybe I should call them back for next week. We could play twenty-one, so that way I could still dunk without it being as cheap as just owning you guys in HORSE.

Although, I’m still not really sorry about the HORSE. What about the trick bounce shot that Jeffries landed? That had to have been practiced, like you could tell he was one of those kids that spent way too much time perfecting that one random shot in the backyard. Whatever, if he spent even half that effort on the bike, it wouldn’t have been such a blowout. Did I already say that? The part about the vertical leap?

I really hate to brag, I’m just so excited, I’ve got so much going on in my life. So just let me brag a little. My fucking money, my spread, I wish I had a basketball in my hands right now. And then next time something happens for you, seriously, I’ll be the first guy you call, I give you my permission, brag away, let me in on just how good it’s going for you, like even though I’ll nod along, “Great! I’m so happy for you!” you won’t think I’m really grasping just how well things are, like you can’t stress enough, seriously, things are going so wildly well, and you don’t know how to adequately communicate what a success you’ve become, because I won’t even be on your level, our very definitions of success will be so totally far apart that, from my perspective, your success won’t even look any different from anybody else’s regular failure. I mean my success. Just, let me brag just a little. But seriously, call me when you hear about that job, or when those test results come in, I’m sure everything’s going to be great, but just let me have this moment, just, today about me, cool?

I’m not a very good basketball coach

When my brother asked me to coach my nephew’s basketball team, I thought, I don’t know anything about little kids, about coaching, I don’t think I’m the right man for the job. But my brother persisted, “Come on Rob, I’m so busy with work, and the kids really need a coach. This could be a great bonding experience. Think of all the memories you guys are going to make together.” So I said, “All right, I’ll do it.”

kids basketball

And on the first day of practice, I could tell that it was going to be a struggle, trying to teach these kids how to do anything, there wasn’t a whole lot of raw talent to work with. “All right boys, let’s line up for some layups.” And they just kind of stood there, this one kid wouldn’t stop dribbling, even when I was talking, not even a good dribble, just smacking the ball with his palm, smack, bounce, smack, bounce.

I knew from as soon as I agreed to coach that I only wanted to teach by positive reinforcement, so I was like, “Jimmy, that’s some great bouncing right there. But do you think you could hold the ball for a just a second while we line up for layups?” And this little shit just kind of smiled at me, like he was thinking, bingo, I got this random dude pissed off, and what’s he going to do about it?

And what could I really do about it? I didn’t want to give up on the positivity, not just yet, and besides, the kid’s mom was standing over in the corner, and this I couldn’t understand, why so many moms had to show up and stay for the whole practice. When I was a little kid, my parents just dropped me off and drove back when it was time to pick me up. I mean, yeah, I guess it is a little unnerving to just leave your kids with some other kid’s dad’s brother. But do these moms really suspect that I’d be up to something?

Come on, and it’s like, you all have so much free time to stand around and watch the practice, maybe a few of you could have teamed up and coached. You think I know how to be a basketball coach? I don’t. And I don’t even have kids. So when I’m staring your way, because one of your kids won’t stop dribbling the ball, and I’m looking for a little help, like maybe you could shout out, “Jimmy! Listen to the coach!” but you’re not, you’re not even being helpful standing there, I’m feeling the constant scrutiny, your only purpose is to glare at me, that, “I’ve got my eye on you buddy,” stare.

“OK Jimmy, keep up the dribbling, keep practicing, you’re doing great,” and the extra positive reverse psychology didn’t work either, this brat could see right through me, he knew I wanted to yell, to take the ball away, something.

“All right kids, make two lines on either side of the net,” and I still couldn’t believe that nobody knew how to line up for layups, “No, I need two even lines, so like five of you have to move over to the other line. No, not all of you, just five of you. OK, see, now the other line is too big. Right? Moms? A little help here?”

There wasn’t any help. And then once I introduced the idea of one side shooting, the other side rebounding, all the kids made a rush to the side with the balls, one long line, everyone fighting to shoot next, nobody rebounding. After like two minutes, the whole thing devolved into the big kids shooting around, grabbing their own rebounds, everyone else kind of off to the side, I think they started playing dodge ball or something, one kid got pegged and one of the moms screamed out, “Hey! Watch it! Watch the face! Hey! You coaching over here or what?”

“Sorry!” I tried to act sincere, I was still trying to be positive, “All right kids, that’s some great energy!” I knew that I didn’t want to be responsible for messing these kids up, yelling at them, they’d be turned off from sports for years, I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but they’re not even my kids, I couldn’t deal with the pressure, the responsibility, all I could do was offer blanket, generic praise, “You kids are so fast! All right! You guys are doing great!”

And then that Sunday it was our first game, I hadn’t really done any coaching yet, these kids never got past the layup line. But what could I do? I bought one of those dry-erase clipboards, the ones with the basketball court outline, for making plays and stuff. But it was a blowout, worse than the worst basketball I’d ever seen, just an overall poor example of human beings trying to do something together.

All I could do was stand there and clap, “All right Johnny! Nice shot!” it was an air ball. “Great hustle Timmy! Keep hustling!” all while the parents sat there on the sidelines and scowled at me. Some dude came up during halftime and got in my face, “I’m Jimmy’s dad. I don’t think he’s getting enough playing time. And did you guys even practice? Did you teach them how to shoot lay-ups? Which one’s your kid?”

And I really wanted to get right back in this guy’s face, like hey pal, what are you doing on Tuesday nights that you’re so busy you can’t be the coach, huh? And you’re going to come over here and start bossing me around? Why don’t you ask your wife about why the kids couldn’t line up for layups, she was at the practice, enabling your little jerk-off son, he just kept fucking smiling at me, slapping that ball, slap, slap, slap.

But what could I have done? I just tried to keep up that positive attitude, I told Jimmy’s dad, “Hey Jimmy’s dad, you’re doing some great cheering over there! I’m really happy with the energy you parents are giving off! Keep up that clapping, that’s what we need to keep doing, clapping and cheering! All right! We’re going to have a great season, it’s so much fun! Just thanks for being here! Thanks for letting little Jimmy be a part of our team! All right! Thanks!”

Don’t be a sore winner

It’s important not to be a sore winner, which I’m not always perfect about, but I try, I’m constantly trying to be a good sport, the kind of guy that comes up to you after a game and, regardless of how aggressive I was playing under the net, even though I was kind of taking advantage of the fact that the ref really wasn’t calling too much in the way of hacks, he definitely didn’t see any of those elbows, I’ll still march over to your bench immediately after the buzzer looking for a handshake. And just because we won, just because we crushed you guys, I won’t be like smiling or anything, nothing cocky, I mean, sure I might be happy, and that happiness might naturally want to express itself with a smile, but I’ll make it as subdued as possible, like if anything, I’ll just make a face, maybe a pained expression, something that, combined with my uncontrollable urge to smile, to laugh even, you’ll feel OK, you won’t feel as if I’m rubbing it in.

Even though we probably could have let up a little toward the end of the second half. I mean, it’s still a competitive league, right? Even if it’s just a men’s league, we’re still here to compete. And I guess we were being a little aggressive, but I need to get that run in. If anything, you guys should have hustled all the way to the last second. By that point, it’s not about score, it’s something personal.

Still, don’t think I was trying to rub it in. I never take threes. I was only taking them because we were up by so much. I figured, when else is a good time for me to practice my long shot? You know, in a real game setting. I was just as surprised as everybody else when they kept falling in, just sinking three after three. That’s why I was celebrating after each shot, jumping up and down, that was sick. I’ve never hit that many threes in a row, not even during practice.

And look, you’re the one acting like I was being a sore winner, but if I was playing you, and you were the one who just scored twenty-one solid points in a row, and then you came up to me looking for a double high-five, I’d give it to you, because why not? That’s some good shooting, great fucking shooting man. I’d cock back my shoulders and give you a chest bump. And yeah, I guess it was coming out as a little aggressive, but I was just excited. You could have been excited for me, with me, I would’ve let you in on that celebration.

But no, keep complaining about those elbows. You think the ref’s going to change his mind? And yeah, I agree, the ref was calling everything you dished out, to which I’d argue that you’ve got to change your game. You want to dish it out, get a little physical under the boards? It’s not my fault if you’re telegraphing everything to the ref. And of course I’m going to shout out, “Ah! Foul!” because, what the hell man? You want to play rough?

But I am sorry about ripping your shirt. You did have my arm hooked when I was going up. Right, rough, I get it, it’s just, you back me into a corner like that, I don’t know, I guess I’m just good at making it look like an accident, like when the ref blew the whistle and I was like, “Oh, I’m sorry man, I’m so sorry, that was an accident, heat of the moment,” and the ref pulls me over and whispers to me in my ear, “Hey, number twenty-five, good sportsmanship,” you can’t fault me, that’s all part of the game.

Besides did you guys pick this division? No, we got placed here also. But only like half of the guys showed up to the qualifier, and I think, well, don’t tell anybody, but in the interest of being a good sport, I guess I’ll admit, I brought in this fat guy from the office to make it look like we’d be playing at a disadvantage, they must have bumped us down a few levels.

Still, it’s all about having fun, right? Hey, come on, don’t be like that, take my hand. I used to think there was nothing worse than a sore winner, but clearly sore losers are much worse. Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to be a sore loser? My parents? My parents are dead. No, it’s OK. Seriously, it’s OK. No need to apologize. Seriously, I’m fine. Honestly, my parents aren’t dead. No, I just wanted you off my back for a second, OK? Enough, we won, no they’re not dead, yes, they told me not to be a sore winner, which is why I’m trying to apologize. And yeah, I guess I’m coming up a little short, but I tried. That’s the most important thing, to try your hardest, right? That’s what my parents always taught me.

Foul number twenty-one

I just got back from my basketball game. I play in a men’s league with my dad, my brothers, and some of my brother’s friends. We won, barely, but I left the gym unsatisfied with how I played. Some games are better than others. Once in a while I’ll have a game where I’m just on, everything’s hitting, all of my shots, my blocks. It’s a rare feeling, like I’m possessed by the spirit of basketball.

But the flip side to that coin is games where I’m unable even to catch a pass. The ball hits me in the hand, and I just kind of fumble around until it’s either out of bounds or picked up by a player on the opposing team. Tonight wasn’t my worst game, I got a few solid blocks, I scored a basket, but I definitely didn’t feel on. Everything was happening like one or two seconds beyond my reaction time.

One negative highlight that stands out took place toward the end of the second half. Like I said, it was a pretty close game. We actually only wound up winning by two points. Throughout that second half, our team had a very slight lead, like it was close enough that the other side could have easily made a few three pointers to take the win.

They were desperate to catch up, and they started fouling us whenever we had possession. The idea here is that the fouls would stop our momentum, ultimately forcing us to shoot free throws. If we miss the free throws, they could gain back possession of the ball, potentially setting themselves up to even things out.

Standing under our hoop after one of my teammates missed his shot, I jumped for the rebound and went to put it right back up. Anticipating a foul, I pushed the ball toward the basket, and sure enough I immediately felt a few arms on my back, my side. The ref blew the whistle and everyone lined up so I could shoot my foul shots.

Foul shots are tough. I’m not playing toward my height advantage at the free throw line. I’m standing at an exact distance from the hoop and I have to try to make the shot while everyone else stands there and watches.

Again, my game is totally hit or miss. Some days I’m on, I’m hitting my shots, I’m sinking my free throws. Other days … well, like tonight I went for my first foul shot and it hit the rim, bounced around and then dropped to the side. One more try. Maybe this time I could give it a little more arc, a little more height.

“Guys!” it was the point guard on the other team, “He’s got a high shot so look for a crazy rebound!” OK, that’s fine, he was trying to win too. But now he was in my head. I needed to shake his commentary. I needed to envision the ball leaving my hand, my wrist flicking perfectly at the last second.

But that one missed also. “Guys!” it was the same guy, “If we have to foul, make sure it’s number twenty-one!” The message was loud and clear: this guy can’t shoot the ball, so let’s look to foul him without worrying about anything going in.

His team followed the advice. I found myself under the hoop again, my hands on the ball after securing a rebound. I could feel two guys ready to crash down on me. One of them wrapped an arm around my waist, the other just kind of jumped on top of me. Still, I made the effort to get the ball up, and the ref blew his whistle sending me right back to that line for two more foul shots.

Now I was feeling a little more confident. I’m not a great shooter, like I’m not that consistent of a shooter, but my shot isn’t awful. I know how to shoot a free throw. Whether or not it goes in, I mean, whatever, I haven’t figured out exactly how that works, or how it’s supposed to work every time. I wrote before, I’m off sometimes. I can feel the ball leaving my hands and my arm twists just slightly, or I don’t give it enough gas to make it to the basket, or I give it way too much juice and it bricks against the backboard.

But statistically speaking, I should be able to get at least one of these in. One for four, right? That’s got to happen. But it didn’t. I missed both and hustled back to defense. The whole time that I was lined up for those shots, all I was thinking about was how I’d maintain my cool confidence after I had made those shots. I wouldn’t look at the point guard, not right at him, but I’d have a look on my face, I’d be saying without saying it, hey man, you see those shots? Looks like you shouldn’t have told everyone to foul me.

And I was still thinking about that the third time I got sent to the line. This time my optimism turned into a kind of desperation. Please God, I can’t miss six shots in a row. There’s no defending my shooting skills after missing six in a row. The point guard kept coaching from the line, “Come on guys! Big rebound here!”

A lot of times when I’m shooting free throws I try to get out of my head, to not think about it. I’m relying on a muscle memory that doesn’t really exist. But if I’m having an on game, a strategy like that might actually work. I won’t think about anything, I’ll line up for a shot, and I’ll sink them both in. But not right now, this time I was focusing very hard on making at least one of those shots. Come on Rob, wrists straight, imagine the arc, envision the ball making almost no contact with the rim or the net as it sails perfectly through.

But it didn’t happen. However close my shots got, no matter how badly I wanted them to bounce a little bit this way or that, I choked. I totally botched six foul shots in a row. After the game, after we shook hands and packed up to leave, one of the refs came up to me and even said, “Better work on those free throws.” And so whatever, it’s just basketball. I’m not a pro, I’m just looking to play for enjoyment. But I can say whatever I want about being this or that, about my shooting being off or on. Tonight the point guard was right. Foul number twenty-one, because he can’t shoot.