The Air Up There

7 Jul

“I wish I was a little bit taller.  I wish I were a baller.”

-Skee Lo

As a child, I was taught that I could grow up to be anything and do anything.  My parents, teachers, family, and friends encouraged me at every turn.  It was a swell way to grow up.  I felt really empowered to pursue extracurriculars and choose a college that suited my interests and goals.  Generally, I have pretty good self-esteem and initiative.  But there’s one little problem.

I really want to dunk.  Like, real bad.

And at age 26, at 5’9″ and 175 lbs…I ams starting to think it might not happen.  I graduated high school at the same time as Lebron James.  He has been a professional basketball player for eight years.  I still have four years of college eligibility left.  My guess is they will remain unused.  (It is, however, some small consolation that Lebron and I have won the exact same number of NBA championships.)

But I’ve never been a prime candidate to throw down a monster jam like Dominique Wilkins or Blake Griffin or even less statured NBA players like Muggsy Bogues or Spud Webb.  It’s genetically improbable, for one.  I have never had the highly disciplined training regimen to turn my average-ish physique into a rim-wrecking machine.

Plus, though I consistently failed to achieve any high-level athletic achievement in basketball, even in the wildly suburban locations I grew up in, my parents continued to cheer me on.  My dad specifically told me I had an excellent grasp of certain “fundamentals.”  I have since learned that praising someone’s “fundamentals” is a euphemism for “Eh, you’re small and white.”  I continued to try out for travel and school teams.

Finally, I made it onto my high school’s junior varsity team during my sophomore year in high school.  I wore Adidas Superstar sneakers (known more for their affiliation with Run-DMC than for their high-ankle support) and enormous glasses.  I spent the grand, sweeping majority of the season on the bench, which was where I belonged, given my relative strengths (hustle, team spirit) and weaknesses (shooting, ball handling, being tall) on the court.

During the season I made and strengthened some high school friendships, almost none of which are active today.  I got into better physical shape than I had been before.  I started dating my first long-term girlfriend (but to be fair, we met through the drama club).  So there were definite benefits to my year as a high school athlete.

On the other hand, I kind of wish someone had told me to knock it off.  I liked basketball, and it was nice to have made the team, but what, did I think I was Rudy or something?  I just wish that (aside from the coaches who persistently cut me from teams/refused to put me in games) someone had told me “no.”

Maybe the rejection would have helped me focus on things I had more aptitude for.  I could have been one of those precocious twerps who writes a novel at seventeen.  Or maybe it would have gone the other way.  It could have forced me to become the gym rat that I would have had to be in order to make a meaningful impact on the court.  I could have spent hours a day perfecting my three point shot or lifting weights in an attempt to become a dominant position rebounder.  Probably, that would not have happened.  But a boy can dream.

So, anyway, it’s very likely I’ll never legitimately dunk a basketball.  Sure there are trampolines and adjustable rims, but those don’t count.  It’s cheating.

Perhaps it’s better that way.  The way the rim looms above my head not unlike the way the moon must have appeared to a young Neil Armstrong, representing something lofty and almost unimaginable.

Or maybe I should just get to work on that novel.

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