Monday, August 17, 2009


“The older I get, the better I was” is a credo that seems to be as innate to manhood as locker room boasting, messy bedrooms, and a disinclination to resist a challenge. It is because of this that the JV high school game basketball in which you scored eight points and had five rebounds becomes the night that you dominated that player who ended up playing ball for some big college and you heard got a tryout with the NBA, even though he went to San Jacinto Junior College for a year before dropping out and they haven’t really had regular “tryouts” for the NBA since the days of really short shorts and two handed push shots.
That game takes on legendary status as you recount the fiery speech Coach Jones gave to you as he told you the game hinged on you taking the challenge of shutting down the opposing team’s best player, the San Jacinto Junior College guy, though in reality, your defensive stopper was in foul trouble, and you were really only guarding the guy one-on-one for like eight minutes.
A varsity basketball average of 8.9 points per game becomes “about twelve or thirteen a game.” Your forty time was “like 4.6 or 4.7,” even though that sub-5.0 you ran was aided by a novice timekeeper whose painted nails, naiveté, and schoolgirl crush ended the run at about 35 yards. Your vertical leap is not necessarily worth mentioning, but you attribute that to it being measured the day after you tweaked your hamstring playing pickup ball with the neighbor kids who couldn’t guard you so they had to play dirty and try to hurt you by undercutting you.
The only thing that hinders you nowadays from replicating that 4.6 time or doing ninety straight pushups, like you used to do, of course, is, well, time. That and the lack of flexibility, of course. But that comes from having to be at a desk job, you know. Gotta pay the bills. It’s a tough life for a former star athlete. One who used to break people down off the dribble, one about whom people would say, “Man, for a white boy, you can play!” One who was so quick that you couldn’t be guarded one-on-one.
And, there was that one time, when you came this close to dunking…

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