i started shooting hoops again in a hot summer when i was very sad. i hadn’t seen a basketball game in years before seeing the heat beat the celtics in the 2011 semifinals the last night i was at school in massachusetts before going home to south florida. i was that kind of urgent sad and i was just learning what it was to feel that way, waking up and immediately getting that sense of urgency that i should be doing something about what was making my insides feel dry and not being able to go back to sleep, just waking up and immediately remembering that shit was wrong and letting that take over. letting that freeze me. i had spent a lot of time banking everything on love, and i have always been an idiot for love and what i thought romance was my whole life.
and the place that i had wanted love the most was high school, where i stopped laughing (my laugh now is harsh and obnoxious cos it just came back one day. i love it tho), where i was always mad, and where home was bad. i didn’t want to be at school or home but that’s where my time was split. i always knew i would be in love though and that none of that shit would matter, and nothing would ever prick me, no home problems could touch me. everybody was texting and i was fantasizing about texting someone i looooved while everyone was yelling at home.
so when my first relationship didn’t work out in my first year of college that was a new pain for me. it wasn’t just in my blood like home problems and hating school that i had been in for twelve years.it was only five months long but yet a killer to me. i thought i loved this girl. i said ‘i love you’ to her. and it didn’t work out. i had even been the one to break it off. but it killed me cause i thought that it meant love didn’t work out for me. i thought i was stuck having to be what looked in my head like being a florida boy for life. like i had no options which love had given me. no distractions. i was sweaty.
as a child basketball to me was my revenge on soccer, on being forced to play that shit which i hated. i played it with friends but no games ever got taken seriously. but i was down for a game of twos in the summer of 2011 with my friends at home, needing distractions, and i got put on the team with the one person there who could ball. and he told me he was gonna do a screen for me. he told me he would move himself and stop in front the person assigned to defend me and i would move towards the direction that would lead my defender into his body and then i would score. and it worked just like his words. i was freed up and things slowed down. i knew i was supposed to make a layup and playing as a kid i knew that much: you dribble in a diagonal line to the basket and you get two steps carrying the ball and you put it in by making the ball hit off the backboard and into the net. i did it and fell in love with basketball right there.
it became my urgency. every single day the first thing i’d do would be to ask someone at home if they needed their car and then drive to the court or bike across the dirty city if all cars were taken. i wouldn’t eat and still don’t eat until late regardless of whether i play or not. i’d take my ball i got at walmart and my headphones and listen to das racist and shoot hoops. i’d shoot hoops for at least an hour every day. i didn’t know the right way how to shoot so that meant some days i’d hit almost all my shots and the next day i’d hit none. but i’d always be out there in my high school gym clothes and my flat bottomed pumas (later some kids i played twos with would tell me i needed basketball shoes when the pumas got holey and i had blisters) unsatisfied until i was sweating. and even when i was home i wanted to be at the court. shit was calmer because my dad was on notice for being divorced which was a long time coming but he worked his way into another chance that, not so secretly, wasn’t going anywhere. but the calm only prompted me to fantasize about being in the nba. i started watching basketball again and watched lebron james and the heat lose in my home team’s first possible championship in years. i watched free videos for basketball improvement on youtube like the one taught by steve nash and practiced the drills at the court.
i was obsessed and it’s no lie that basketball got me through that summer.