Basketball. The first sport I can remember watching as a child. I might’ve told this story way back in June when I did my first column, but one of my first memories of watching basketball happened when I was six or seven years old. I was at my grandmother’s house for the night having a root beer float while the NBA on TNT or TBS, I can’t remember which, was on. My beloved Orlando Magic were on with Shaw, Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson. They were playing the Charlotte Hornets, and the Hornets were beating the Magic.
Oh, I was upset. In fact, I was so distraught, I called Alonzo Mourning a name, a name that got me thumped by my grandpa. Funny how that kind of memory sticks out in your head, calling a guy you’ve never met a SOB and getting in trouble because of it. The Magic lost that game, but I remained a basketball junkie. Every single Tuesday night, Thursday night I would watch the NBA. I would watch college basketball on weekends.
Heck, I remember the Big Eight tournament where Iowa State won the last Big 8 tournament in history and did it by beating Kansas. Oh how sweet it always was to see Roy Williams getting frustrated at the Cyclones. Although it’s fun seeing Roy Williams getting frustrated at anything.
When I was a kid I would go to any free hoop in a park, in a gym, and just start shooting around. I would imagine myself playing for the Magic or the Cyclones in late game situations and the ball would be in my hands. I’d shoot, and if it went in I was the big hero hearing all of the cheers in my head. Were I to miss, well, I was clearly fouled on the play and had to go to the free throw line to be a hero there. Funny how we practice these scenarios in our heads as kids that never come close to becoming true, at least for myself anyways.
I played basketball in fifth and sixth grade. I scored our first basket in fifth grade as I recall, and we then went onto lose every single game we played that season. We were pretty awful. In sixth grade there were a couple of new kids that moved to our small school, my sixth grade class had 11 kids in it, and we won a handful of games. Yours truly managed to hit a game tying shot with 30 seconds left in the game, the highlight of my “career.”
I didn’t play ball in seventh grade and went back to it in eighth. It was then I realized that being chubby, slow and pretty unathletic wouldn’t allow me to realize my hoop dreams. I was third string that year and since we had 15 boys out for the team, well, I didn’t get to see the floor much. I played in two games and scored once against the worst team in our area. After that I stopped playing organized ball and moved into pick up games with friends who weren’t as good as the starters.
However, if you put a video game controller into my hands I become a great player. I played basketball games on Super Nintendo, Playstation or Xbox. If I could play it, I probably did. That love for basketball in any form just runs deep.
Most of the sports books I’ve read and enjoyed the most have been over basketball. I think I’ve read about 75% of the books about Michael Jordan. Jordan will always be the greatest player of all time, with all due respect to Wilt, Bill Russell, LeBron, Bird or Magic. I’ve read books about the Bird/Magic rivalry and eventual friendship. I’ve gone through Bill Simmons’ “The Book of Basketball” at least four or five times.
I’ve read about facts I never would’ve known about otherwise thanks to some of these books. Like how Coach K was advised by Bobby Knight to coach at Iowa State instead of Duke. Imagine if that had happened? Coach K at Iowa State instead of Bobby Orr? How much different would the college basketball landscape be? Would Coach K even be Coach K? I love thinking about alternate history and that only adds to that fire.
Basketball will forever be my first love in sports. I still love the game even though I don’t really care for the NBA currently. College ball will always be the greatest, and I look forward to covering our area high schools this season. Basketball is a sport that can translate to any society and this is why it’s one of the best, and will always remain that way.