Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Power of the Dunk (Interlude)

Whoever first said that a dunk is "only worth two points" was "unduly suspicious or fearful of being replaced by a rival"--this is to say: he was a hater. Anyone who has ever been left in the wake of a powerful dunk, watched from a front-row seat underneath the dunker, or heard the crowd erupt upon a thunderous dunk (or any dunk, for that manner) knows that this truism is not so true.
Now, being that my basketball experience has run the gamut from statkeeper to player to referee to coach to fan, one would think that I am above all of this jealousy, right? Wrong. I, too, am a hater. Believe that.
I am a senior in high school, playing some of the best basketball of my life. I have missed the whole of my junior year after successive bouts of pneumonia and mononucleosis took a serious toll on my basketball conditioning. I am playing myself into shape with daily grudge matches at the local health club after school each day, as well as participating in a Nike spring league.
I have reinvented myself in a way, adding a solid jump shot from 15-20 feet to my formerly one-dimensional game. The formerly skinny, undersized post player with a keen ability to keep alive offensive rebounds and score on putbacks and tip-ins has become a skinny, undersized post player with a keen ability to keep alive offensive rebounds and score on putbacks and tip-ins (and an occasional jump shot).
True to the fraternity/mafia that is hoops, young Turks need to be initiated and make their bones before getting immunity allowing them to play on the main court of the gym. There is a certain sophomore who is doing his darndest to speed up his button ceremony--so much so that I'm pretty sure he's already got the the knife to prick his thumb and the saint's card in his backpack...
My team has the ball with the score is tied at 14, with me scoring five or six of the points with a couple of garbage buckets off loose balls or putbacks, and two or three jumpers from midrange. Guarded by a fellow senior, a star player on the varsity team and the Lex Luthor to my foiled Superman, I relish the opportunity to finally wrest a win from his greedy hands. Though every game played with us on opposing sides seems to end with a fight to the end and a two point margin, my record against him is not something I care to know.
As we pass the ball around, each of us looks for an opportunity to end the game with a three-pointer, which is worth two in the halfcourt game, a game in which a team must win by two points. My opportunity opens up, a reward for my constant movement without the ball. I catch a pass slightly outside the three-point line, my feet poised and pointed towards the front rim, hips low and body folded, ready to explode up for a jump shot in perfect rhythm.
The shot is soft, true, and in. I know it--any player who has had enough reps has a feeling (99% accurate) when a shot will go in after hitting the rim first. The shot hits softly off the front rim, lightly settles, and falls to its destined position inside the net...only to be interrupted in its fall by a thunderous shaking of the rim by the hands of the upstart sophomore. His dunk, more power than grace, leads to the incredibly rare (and appropriate in this case) "offensive interference" call. The basket did not count, the ball was turned over to the opposing team, and (need I even say it?) we went on to lose the game.
After the game, I played my role, sufficiently contemptous of this youngster putting his personal glory in front of the team's. I'm in loud agreement with those who insist that my shot would have gone in and won the game. What I lack in certainty, I make up for in volume, and anyone listening to our postgame conversations will be swayed by the passion with which I make my case for the continued barring of this pledge from the upper echelons of the frat. I make it quite clear that he will always be the nerd, he will always be Jeremy Piven as "Cheeeeeese," he will always be on the outside looking in, and he better gain a better understanding of the team concept that will make him a better player.
That's what I say. That's what I insist.
How do I really feel? What do I really think about the dunk?

"Dang, why can't I do that?"

In the immortal words of Ice T at "The Player Hater's Ball"--"Hate, hate, hate, hate..."

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