Hoop dreams in a time of old knees
By Joe Black | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s been almost a year now and I can still feel what it was like. I can tell you it was hard to give up. I still dream about it at night and use the feeling that it gave me to relax me enough to get to sleep.
Yep, it was September of last year when I played my last basketball game. The memories still haunt me.
The elbow jumper. The reverse layup. The feel of the ball as you spin it before a free throw. The thump of a dribble. Drop step and power layup.
My love affair with the game of basketball goes way back. I must have been 10 when my Dad and I used tongue and groove board to build a backboard and mount a rim in the backyard. And when I say backyard, I mean backyard. Our driveway, the site of many a home basketball court, was gravel and wouldn’t work.
When we first put it up a neighbor, Charlie Anderson, brought a bunch of his buddies (real-life junior high basketball players!) over for a game. They quickly realized the fundamental mistake my Dad and I made in our goal construction: We put the rim at 11 feet. We promptly fixed that by moving the rim to the bottom of the backboard looked goofy but still worked.
After that, I quickly pounded that grass into a solid dirt court.
There weren’t many public courts to play on in my home town. There was an outdoor court at the junior high and Jackie Lefler’s grandad had built a sweet-rimmed concrete court in his backyard. Bill Miller had a rim mounted in his driveway but it was slanted and on quite a hill and if you let the ball get away from you, it was a 10-minute delay while you chased it for a block or more.
But in my hometown, football was king and everything else just really didn’t matter. So, football was my game.
I thought I would play basketball in high school but when the football coach told me I should focus only on football, that I might have a chance to play after high school, my basketball days were over.
It wasn’t until I took a job in the gym at the student center at UT-Memphis that I got my true Basketball Jones on. Played all the time. I used to have raw fingertips from playing so much.
Graduated and moved to Maryville and knew every game in town. Sandy Springs. Everett Park. The Courts at the Candy Shoppe. Sometimes we got in gyms like Alnwick and Mentor. Parks & Rec leagues. Church leagues. Community night at Maryville College.
Later I settled into standing games at Maryville College on Tuesday and Thursday at lunch and Sunday evenings at Maryville High School.
Whether I had “game” or not is up for somebody else to answer. All I know is that I loved to play.
And if my knees would let me, I’d still be playing. At 60 years of age. In my seventh decade.
Why? I don’t think there is a sweeter moment in all of sports than the one-on-one move to the basket. The jump shot. The block. The dunk. Shut-down man defense.
Basketball to me is truly poetry in motion.
I’m not alone either.
My buddy Dave Sands is still a fixture at games all over town. And BMH Marketing Director Jennie Bounds keeps a basketball in her office to remind her of the smell and feel of the game (and who might take off at any moment to shoot some hoops).
I was lucky enough to play for 50 years. I guess I’ll have to keep dreaming of the baseline jumper and the ankle-breaking crossover dribble.
And in my dreams, I never miss. Oh, and I play defense.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)