My Comeback to High School Basketball, Part One: The Practice
I received a chest pass on the wing and turned to look at my options.
Seeing none of my teammates open, I managed to pull off a good enough pump fake to bait my defender, leaving me wide open with a straight path to the basket.
As I drove to the hole for an easy two points, I suddenly felt the floor evaporate beneath me as I attempted to plant my foot to jump.
Initially, I thought that I had taken a good leap, but then I realized that I wasn’t advancing toward the basket—I was falling away from it.
Not until my painful face plant on the hardwood did I realize that I had slipped and fallen on one of the most basic plays in the game of basketball.
"Man," I thought. "It's been a while since I've done this."
A while? Try three years. Three very long years.
Last week, my high school hosted its annual student-faculty basketball game, an event that I was not keen on participating in, considering the risks involved.
The last thing I needed was to post up on my English teacher and accidentally knock her down, sending both my grade and a possible college recommendation letter into jeopardy.
Additionally, the last time I had played an organized basketball game was in the eighth grade, ending my playing career after eight seasons (1999-2006).
However, as fate would have it, I signed up to play on a whim, completely unaware of what I was getting myself into.
For starters, I was extremely out of shape, something that developed from a ton of daily homework and an extreme loathing of the family treadmill. So to say that the team practice before the game left me painfully fatigued may be a bit of an understatement.
Secondly, my basketball skills were a little rusty as they had been neglected during my absence from basketball.
While most people would have recognized that the possibility of looking stupid was nearly inevitable, I, unfortunately, failed to heed the obvious signs.
I showed up at practice with my vintage "T-Mac 3" Adidas basketball shoes, ready to get the ball rolling.
We started with a lay-up drill, which proved to be quite easy for a former basketball player like myself as I made both of my attempts.
However, that would prove to be the last success for me for the duration of practice.
After finishing our lay-ups, we moved on to a jump-shot drill—setting the stage for my first dose of complete humiliation.
When my turn came, I caught the pass from the last shooter’s rebound, set my feet, and launched the rock towards the hoop.
After letting go, something did not feel right as I watched the ball soar towards the basket.
I watched helplessly as my jumper took on the form of the Titanic—the ship, not the blockbuster motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio—sinking slowly to the ground.
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
Air ball. Silence.
The gravity (pun intended) of the situation was sickening. Mortified, I angrily demanded the ball in order to redeem myself.
Yet, once again, my jump shot soared through the air like a lame duck, falling feebly to the ground—I had given a whole new meaning to the nickname “His Airness.”
On the next go-round, I banked my jumper off the backboard, but the damage had already been done.
Nothing could salvage the humiliation I had just suffered—nothing.
However, while nothing could be done to resurrect my image, there was still room for me to continue sliding down the slippery slope of mediocrity, believe it or not.
As we started to scrimmage, I got stuck guarding this huge guy that must have been at least 6'5" and weighed about 300 lbs.
What made matters worse was that some of the students playing in the scrimmage, including mini-Shaq, were on the actual varsity basketball team.
Really? C'mon! I was under the impression that this was supposed to be an amateur, "has been," jock-wannabe game, not a bone-breaking slugfest with the top ballers in the school!
Well, I soldiered on anyway, huffing and puffing from both the speed of the jocks and my long hiatus from hardcore competitive basketball.
I actually enjoyed limited success as I pulled down a few rebounds and held my giant—uh, man to a limited performance.
Then, it happened. Cue the botched lay-up attempt.
With my head throbbing and my heart racing, I slowly got up from the floor and limped down to the other end of the floor.
I was determined to keep going, but apparently, I was alone in that desire.
Following my "fall" from grace, I was quickly pulled by the coach for the rest of the practice scrimmage and took my spot on the bench.
The coach told me that I did well, but he wanted to get the other players some action before the game as well, a strategy I had no problem with at all.
I just felt so incomplete to leave the game on such a flat note.
As I sat down, I covered my head with a sweatshirt to cool myself off, but I was mainly trying to hide the deep scarlet shade of embarrassment that pervaded my face.
Hopefully, I would I get a chance at redemption in the game the next day, but for the time being, things looked pretty bleak.
Moral of the Story: Always know what you're getting into and be prepared for it.
Stay tuned for the results of the game and to find out if I ever got a chance to reclaim my basketball dignity.
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