I went out in the backyard today and played on my old hoop. I always kept the basket low, a standard height subsidy for white high school basketball players around the country. I spend hours out there by myself, perfecting my free throw and imaging hitting big shots for Coach K. I scraped myself dozens of times on the gravel alley next to the court, which was a skating rink if you played in the rain. The other scrubs from the team and I would play for hours after school, throwing the ball down and imagining ourselves with more talent than we had. The rim has held up despite years of kids hanging mercilessly from it.

The court hasn’t faired as well. It’s almost a decade old now and the years show. The surface of the concrete has been warn down in spots by the tires of my fathers truck, leaving behind a few patches of loose gravel. When the City decided to pave our alley they decided the court stuck out into public property. They converted the offending two feet of concrete into a steep ramp connecting the road to the court. It works for parking, but for anyone wanting to shoot around it’s a broken ankle factory.

But still, it’s my home court. What’s avoiding a little slope to a kid who used to pick gravel out of his bleeding legs after playing in freezing rain? Sometimes I feel completely removed from my 14-year-old self. That kid had no idea who I’d be, and I care barely remember who he was. But shooting hoops on the old court this afternoon brought me back to those days. I reconnected with the kid who assigned himself wind springs and assigned himself five more three-pointers before coming in for dinner. I even imagined hitting the big shot in the finals again. It dropped through the net, swish, and I headed inside for dinner.

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