For all of you Millennial ballers to enjoy, here is the 16-year-old version of yours truly – fresh with feathered hair, tiny shorts and Reebok Pumps:
I was 145 lbs soaking wet. I used to hold a bag of bricks in my lap to keep the seat down at the movie theater.
And while that certainly appears to be ages ago, I admit I’m far from being a old. I’m still young at heart, and although Men’s Health won’t be calling me anytime soon to put me on the cover, I’m in pretty good shape. So it makes me feel old starting a sentence with ‘Players today…’
Players today don’t hoop on outdoor courts. And that’s a shame.
Playing outside built toughness. Chain nets, hard concrete and the brutal summer Washington, DC heat separated the players from the wannabes. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for 30+ dudes to show up to the court on a Saturday morning or weekday during the Summer… ranging in age from budding high school freshmen to ‘old men’ (which in retrospect is funny, because I am actually older now than those ‘old men’ where when they played!).
Only the best players made it on the court and the winners stayed on. If you lost, you sat… and sat… and sat. You waited until someone picked you up or until it was your turn to say ‘I got next.’ If you were on the younger side, the chance of getting picked up by a veteran was slim.
So to be blunt, losing sucked. But you know what? That helped breed competitiveness. Winning was all that mattered. Not how many points you scored. Not if you could dribble behind your back 10 times in a row. Not if you had on some Jordan IV’s (the first time they came out). Winning. That was it.
When winning was the only thing that mattered…
- You played defense.
- You made the extra pass.
- You took care of the ball.
- You sprinted the court.
- You talked on D.
- You set screens.
- You boxed out.
- You finished lay-ups.
- You always knew the score.
- You played the game the way it was supposed to be played.
Playing pick-up outside was a right of passage. You started on the young end… got bullied… pushed around… dunked on… and swatted (please revert back to my high school picture above for reference). But over time, you learned to handle the physical play and your game matured. And then after a few years… you ran the court.
Then as soon as you were the best player on your playground… you went looking for a better playground.
I miss those days.
Please share this blog if you know what I am talking about!
PS: Be sure to check out the new Hardwood Hustle Podcast!