I grew up completely consumed in sports my whole life. That was my top priority for anything…playing sports, watching sports, reading about sports, whatever. If there was an option available, I was doing it. It didn’t matter what I was wearing, where I was at, everything turned into an athletic competition. I remember bending a metal hanger into a circle and lodging it above the doorframe to create a basketball hoop (…and the source of how I busted my front teeth). I remember CMTC play practices where we created an odd type of indoor football game where we would take the caps of spray paint cans and use them in the church basement as the football. Those things don’t just go straight, so it takes a lot skill to build up accuracy throwing those…and can honestly say that I’m a pro.
I was never awesome at any one sport, and I quit everything very early. I have a bad tendancy to start off very strong, but I peak very quickly, so I don’t make much progress. That’s basically how it was for every sport. I turned out to be average (able to play competitively and keep up) in basically every sport, but I’ve never really been a true force. It took me 21 years before I even won any sort of tournament, and I have played in quite a bit (special thanks to Purdue folk for inviting me to a volleyball tourney to guarantee me the trophy). But I’ve spent alot of times on the courts, between the white lines, and I’ve learned alot. I’ve also changed alot. I used to be the biggest mouth on the court, trash talking like none other. I still run into people who remember watching me play when I was like 10 years old, and they just remember how much trash I would talk to people. I tamed that down quite a bit now (depending on who I play with…you still need to have some fun at times).
I have heard many people say, when talking about relationships, that to get a good glimpse as to a person’s true character, to watch them in their regular environment. When it’s a one-on-one setting, people try to show-off and be on their best behavior. But watch a girl when she’s talking with her girlfriends, or look at a guy as he’s playing sports…you’ll start to see more of their attitude than you knew before.
But over the years, I’ve noticed things a more deeper level. Because basketball was my true first love, I spent a huge amount of time learning, playing, teaching, watching, and practicing it. And looking back simply at my life in that arena, I can see alot of how I play(ed) reflected my lifestyle.
There are 5 positions on the basketball court:
Point Guard – handles the ball, runs the offense, directs people where to go and gets people the ball to shoot
Shooting Guard – primarily a shooter, simply tries to get open and make a shot…best shooter on the team
Small Forward – a bit of a bigger body, also a shooter, and can handle the ball pretty decently
Power Forward – big body, looks to score inside, muscles people around
Center – biggest guy out there, should not dribble, just get underneath the basket and put it in
That’s a rough idea of how people characterize the positions. And normally when you play, you’re placed depending on your size. I, obviously, started out as a point guard. I would play with people so much older and bigger than me, that I couldn’t really match up physically with any of them. One thing I did have was vision. From whe I was very young, Ive prided myself in my ability to see the court and be able to guess correctly where people are moving to and how defenses are playing and what are players strengths and weaknesses. So that’s what I did for most of my life. I would occasionally shoot from the outside, but I basically set everyone else up, and I loved it. I got to be so good with my handles and I’d get pretty fancy with my passes, but it would work. What I loved the most would be that I wouldn’t really get much credit for it. Because no matter what I did, when all is said and done, all eyes were on the boy that made the shots (…and Sij, you stole my thunder by being the shooter).
And in life? Oh so similar. My desire in everything is to set things up and make sure things get done right, but I don’t attach my name to it. I’ll make sure things are running perfectly, then pass the ball off to someone else who’ll finish it off and get the credit. Occasionally I’ll let myself get some cheers by doing things, but that wasn’t my goal. I didn’t want that attention.
Another thing about my ballin’ skills was that for most of my life I was primarily a 3-point threat. I’d just hang out around the stripe, wait until the ball got swung back to me, and then I’d shoot. If it wasn’t there, I’d find and open guy and let them get it. But I would never drive it in. My high school guys would joke about how I didn’t know how to make a lay-up, because my entire game was dribbling and shooting 3’s. Why didn’t I take it inside, you ask? I feared rejection. Like I told you, I played with guys bigger and stronger than me all the time. And they would show me no mercy. If I tried to even come close to the basket and take a shot, that ball would get knocked right back at my face. So instead of facing it, I played soft. Even on fast breaks, if I felt pressure coming, I’d look to make my patented wrap-around pass (or wrap-around fake, if I was feeling giddy) and let them finish instead of me taking the chance.
And that’s life. Fearing rejection. I won’t go into situations that I feel are basically rejections waiting to happen. I logically think things through, if it ends in ‘that ball is going to be sent right back at you’ then I’ll pass. It carried a huge complex around of not being strong enough or good enough, and I would shy away to the backgrounds in areas that I knew I could excel in. If it takes some courage, then I’d be lacking. I held myself back in so many ways just because I was unsure with how things would play out.
But you know what I noticed over time? The people who are considered the greatest ballers are those who really can do it all: offensively, defensively, inside and out. Guys like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant…these guys weren’t one-dimensional players. Growing up they might have been typecasted into one position. But they pushed themselves to master the game as a whole. Jordan was told that he was a good player, but he wasn’t that great of a shooter. What’d he do? Worked on his shot non-stop, and became one of the best clutch shooters of all-time. Magic Johnson came into the NBA as a point guard, known for his court vision and flashy passes. But his rookie year, he played every position in the NBA finals because there was a need – point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Simply Amazing.
And over time, I turned my desire into becoming more of a well-rounded player. I still like handling the ball and making that special pass, but I have no fear in bringing it in anymore. It took some time, but I just had to get thrown underneath the basket and forced to keep putting up the shots until I learned how to deal with the pressure.
In life? Still not complete yet. I still settle for jump shots because I see the defender underneath. I still have a tendancy to set up the pass to the clutch shooter instead of carrying the burden on my own. I’ve made some progress over time, but I’m not anywhere close to going up strong everytime. But the desire is there. I’m working at it. I’m starting to fight the fear and carry the weight. When the time is short and something needs to be done, I will be the one who takes the ball and simply uses wisdom…looking to pass but ready to shoot. No fear. Just watch. In due time, they’ll be calling me clutch. On the court…and off.