Basketball: A Mind Game

I’ve been asked, many times, why I don’t watch basketball, or whether I even like it. I grew up watching BBall.

I have TWO reasons for not watching. Please do not think I’m not aware of the sheer talent in the league, since I watched. I am.

Reason#1

I LOVED the Boston Celtics’ fab five:
Larry Bird
Kevin McHale
Dennis Johnson (R.I.P)
Robert Parrish
Danny Ainge

The Celtics, the Lakers (Magic, Kareem, Worthy), The Pistons, The Jazz….THAT was worth watching. Lost interest, after the Olympic “Dream Team”, and those guys retired. Never to be duplicated.

Reason#2

I grew up with the greatest player never known; my brother, Larry. He was a young phenom. He was grace and granite, fluid, and steel, flight, wind, water, FIRE.
When I was about 5/6 years old, my brother went to the Youth Olympics. At Friendship Airport, now BWI-Thurgood Marshall, you could watch them board the plane, near the tarmac. He was so handsome, in his gold sports jacket (HOF-like), perfect fro, and killer smile. I was so excited, as he, and the other young men, boarded the plane. I waved frantically, yelling, clapping, shouting, “that’s my brother, my ‘stepping partner’ ( I got that name because he rarely got to leave the house without me attached to his leg)”. Funny thing happened…they closed the doors, and I could no longer see him. Prettyface-Mommiekins said we were leaving. Well that can’t be right. Where’s Larry? Why didn’t he come back, yet? We have to wait for him. How’s he gonna get home? My young mind could not process that he was not coming with us, or that he wasn’t gone, forever. In the words of Adele, I set FIRE to the rain, dropping to the ground, screaming, begging for my “brova”. REAL LONG NIGHT for my parents.

A knee injury took him off the fast-track to basketball history. BNBL(Baltimore Neighborhood Basketball League) wanted him, BADLY, and he was barely out of junior high.

In later years, my brother had gained a lot of weight, but still had a love for the game, so he joined a local group. They were all about 5-10 years his junior, and in great physical shape. The games were played at Lake Clifton H.S. One day, my sister-in-law, and my nieces went to a game. I hadn’t seen him play since I was a kid. As they began the coin toss, people began to say things: ” I know that fat guy isn’t playing”, “look at ‘Fat Albert”….they laughed, not knowing they were sitting near his wife, children, and sister.

The game began, and the derisive chatter grew into, “these boys gon run him into the ground”, “he’s gonna have a heart attack” (laughter), “he can’t hang”. We said nothing. The ball comes to Larry. To this day, I don’t know what he did, or how he did it, but he moved so fast, he had to catch his own rebound, as the others seemed to be standing still, trying to figure out what happened. He proceeded to do more of the same, throughout the ENTIRE game. The chatter turned to chants of “Go big man”, ” Fat Albert is schooling dem boys”. Yes, they won,thanks to my brother’s triple-double.
After the game, I asked HOW. You out-maneuvered them all.  He simply said, “finesse”. HUH? He further explained that the essence of the game is mental, and that the physical is merely the manifestation; the execution. Further, he taught me that you MUST ALWAYS know what your opponent will do, before they do. HUH? “I out-thought them, Tigger (that’s me).” Oh, I see. That advice has served me well.

Why is this on my head? It’s playoff time. In the spirit, I just watched a great documentary called , “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, on HBO On Demand. It was awesome. It took me back to the airport tarmac, to the bleachers at Lake Clifton, to the reason I don’t watch; I’ve seen the best.

I miss you all day, every day, my Tommy💔😥🏀.

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