We’re back. Story time, numero dos. The first story that I shared with you guys got great feedback, so I figured I would make this some what of a series. Throughout my childhood, I have had some wild experiences, especially when it comes to athletics. So why not share them with you and reminisce. This story is once again not one for the faint of heart. It does not have a happy ending like the movies do. I did not get carried out of the gym on my teammates shoulders. That being said, I was close and with that let me set the scene.
Throughout my childhood, one of my favorite experiences was participating and competing in numerous rec basketball leagues. Every winter I would lace up my Js, put on my shooting sleeve and headband and hit the hardwood. I was no Jordan, but I had the heart of a lion and always gave 110%. I was also the type of player that may not have been the best on the floor performance wise, but I was for damn certain the best looking one on the court. I would show up to my games in a backpack and slides and would walk into the gym like I owned the place. After shaking everyones hand in attendance, I would take the hardwood for warmups wearing none other than a Duke warm up shirt. Everyone else on my team would give me a look, as to say “Dude why the hell are you wearing a warm up, it’s rec.” I didn’t care what the haters had to say though, I treated this as the NBA finals night in and night out.
The season that this story takes place in was not pretty. I won’t sugar coat it, we didn’t win a single game that year. Heading into the playoffs we were 0-10. We had a few kids that were decent, one kid who was good, but selfish and it was a recipe for an ugly season. To add to that, our coach was no Phil Jackson. I’m pretty sure the guy did not know the difference between a man to man defense and a zone. How the playoffs worked in the league I was a part of was that the top overall seed would play the lowest seed in the first round. As you can probably put together, my team was the lowest seed and we would be facing the number one seed in the first round. This team was heading into the playoffs as huge favorites and had not lost a game the entire season. This was a David vs Goliath type matchup and many wondered why we even took the floor that day.
The game was to be taken place at 3PM that day and would be hosted at an old high school gym, reminiscent of the one featured in the classic movie “Hoosiers.” Now I was only 11 at the time, but I remember waking up that day thinking to myself, “It’s time to shock the MF world.” I had full belief that this could be done, and we would be remembered forever. When I got to the gym I was not nervous because I knew we had nothing to lose, we were playing for pride frankly. Before tip to hype up the crowd and my team, I took a bottle of baby powder from my backpack, dumped some of it onto my hands and threw it in the air, like the great king, Lebron James would do before each game. It was finally time for tip and as I was touching the back of my shoes I looked at their starting five and I can still picture vividly just how bigger they were. They were like the Harlem Globetrotters of rec basketball and we were the Generals. But hey, a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile, right? As the game tipped off, it was clear from the jump who was more talented. They made their shots, created turnovers and ran the fast break with exquisite precision. The game was in harm of being a blow out early, and even at the half, we were trailing by about 20. This one was over and this ugly, winless season would finally come to an end. But than, something changed. In the second half I caught fire.
Prior to this game, my career high in a game was fifteen and I never expected to exceed that number. At the half I only had 4 points and was not knocking down the shots I needed to make. In the second half however, you would think that I was wearing the famous shoes from Like Mike. I was hitting shots from left and right, and my hands started to burn because they were literally on fire. I knew something special was happening when at the end of the third quarter I hit a corner three before the buzzer to cut the deficit down to 7. It was my 20th point of the game, and before I knew it this was a ball game. Looking over at their bench, you could see the fear from a mile away. They had not been up by less than 10 the whole year and did not know what to do. The fourth quarter began, and I continued my Pistol Pete like performance. The ball would leave my hand and find it’s way to the bottom of the net. I could not miss. At one point we had even taken the lead. We were going to win this thing and I was going to be remembered forever. Now here’s where the story starts to go bad. With about 3 minutes left in the game, my team was trailing by 6 points, a very manageable deficit and with the way I was playing, was one that could be erased in seconds. I hit another three to cut the lead down to three and than dove for a loose ball, forcing the ball to go off my opponents knee, which led to a turnover. I let off a monstrous yell and waved my arms up and down, to signify my want for the crowd to get pumped up. I then heard a buzzer. Now since there was over two minutes left in the game, the only thing that a buzzer could represent would be a substitution. I assumed it had to be for the other team and thought there might have been an injury of some sorts but as I looked to my right I saw something that was almost unimaginable. I saw 5 of our backups coming into the game to relive the starters for the game. WAIT, WHAT. EXCUSE ME. What type of logic is this. We have the ball, we are down three and have the chance to beat a team that has not lost a game all season and you are going to take your best five players out? I wanted to tell my coach as it was clear I had more basketball knowledge than him, but I was too classy for that. Instead, I went on the bench, took a sip of water from gatorade bottle because I was gassed, slammed it on the ground in disgust, took my shoe off, threw it against the wall as hard as I could and yelled a cuss word at the top of my lungs. This was the type of yell that you see in the movies that makes a whole room stop in silence in shock. I than left the gym, as I could not watch my team lose. Our coach had gave up on us. He quit.
We ended up losing that game and finishing the season 0-11. That being said, I know for a fact that if I and the rest of the starting five would have stayed in that game for the conclusion of it, we would have won that game and we would have pulled off the greatest upset of all time. 1980 US Hockey Team who?
Side Note: When I got home that night, I cut my coaches head out of our team picture that was hanging on our fridge.