Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Scoreless Season


            Let me preface this story by saying that I am not a great basketball player. Never have been.  Never will be.  I guess that’s not surprising considering the fact that I’m a 5’6” Jewish kid from Pikesville.  Nevertheless, I love basketball.  There’s nothing quite like the sound of a ball swishing through the net after a jumper.
            I’ve had an interesting relationship with basketball over the years.  I’ve played on dozens of different teams with a slew of different players and coaches.  One memory will always stick out in my mind, of the season that was by far my worst.  I must have been 10 or 11 years old when I played rec basketball on the blue team, the Pistons.  We were undefeated champions going 14-0, and I still have the 2-foot tall trophy in my closet somewhere.  That season I cried after every game.  Of course, we never lost, but no matter how many shots I took, I simply couldn’t score.  Finally, when we played the worst team in the league, I scored my first two baskets of the season.  The parents cheered ecstatically because finally I wouldn’t have to run to my dad crying after the game.  I didn’t score again the rest of the season.  We won our last game, received our gigantic trophies, and I moved on with my life.
            Since then, I’ve certainly grown as a basketball player.  I learned how to shoot by spending hours on end playing ball on the outdoor courts of Camp Androscoggin in Wayne, Maine.  I’ve made some teams, and been cut from plenty of others.  One of my fondest memories of the sport was in my last summer at camp when my Color War Captain chose me to partake in the All-Star Basketball Game.  I didn’t belong on the same court as most of those kids, but they knew how much I loved to play so they let me suit up with the team.
            After one year on Fresh-Soph, and two on JV, this year I moved up to Varsity team at school.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time, but that was okay with me, I just wanted to be part of the team.  I struggled this season.  In the past, I was never a superstar, but when I did come in the game I always had a knack for making a shot.  For some reason, this year the shots just wouldn’t fall.  Every Friday night game, when I’d come in for the last few minutes of the game, the fans would always scream for the team to give me the ball.  I took plenty of shots, but I simply couldn’t seem to convert.
            Tonight was my last home basketball game.  We demolished our opponents in our first round playoff matchup, and with two minutes left in the game my coach called my name, telling me to check into the game.  I gave it everything I had.  I played the hardest defense I could muster, and I ran around screens trying to get open on offense.  I made a few solid passes to my teammates and we managed to score several times in the last few moments of the game.  Finally, I got my chance.  I received a pass on the wing and swung through, driving toward the basket.  I put up a shot.  It missed.  I got the rebound, but as the seconds ticked off the clock and I squared up to shoot again the defender came from behind and blocked my shot.  That was it, my last chance to score, and I got stuffed.
            As I walked off the court and got in line to shake hands I just had to grin.  No, I didn’t score this season.  So what?  I got to spend another year playing the game I love with all of my friends.  Friday we get the chance to fight for our spot in the championship game this Sunday.  What I didn’t realize when I was 10 is that basketball is bigger than just scoring points.  Basketball is meant to be played as team, and my team’s going to St. John’s this Friday to win a basketball game, together.