Monday, November 2, 2009

A Ball and a Hoop is All You Need...

It's the most commonly asked question among males between the ages of 6 and 106. "You wanna go shoot around?" It's a simple offer. Let's grab a ball, find the nearest hoop, and forget about life for a while. And just shoot. Hook shots from the corner, spot-up threes from the wing, and when you run out of things to throws. A million of 'em. If you're a hooper, a gym rat, or any other term that describes a man obsessed with buckets, then you know where I'm coming from. In essence, you can find out pretty much everything you need to know about a guy by the way he carries himself in this situation. How quick is he to deliver your change after a make? What kind of pass is he giving you? When it's his turn to shoot, how much time is he taking to set up? What's he wearing? While the activity in and of itself is an uncomplicated one, there are many nuances that go along with it. In this piece, we will examine this ageless form of male bonding ranging from the peach baskets of the 1890's to the 'Chain Nets Craze' that came to define the year 1995. So lace up your kicks and settle's time for the "High Socks Legend Breakdown of the Shootaround."

The Dreaded "Garage" Hoop

A house is meant to hold many things. There's a chimney perched at the top. There are windows facing the outside. There's a front door allowing for entry. But if you had boys in your house growing up, there was one thing you did not put on your house...and that was a basketball hoop. Ahhh yes, the infamous "backboard attached to the garage." Who was the ad-wizard that came up with that one? Seriously, a backboard, rim, and net just stapled to your home?? Not good...not good at all. You ever shoot hoops on one of these monstrosities? An errant miss doesn't go out of goes on your roof. Everybody had an instance when they pulled a sick UTEP 2-Step on their defender, drove to the hole, went up for the layup, and then realized, "The lane was open. The garage was not." Ouchie-Magouchie. Somehow it just seemed more difficult to hit a shot on a garage hoop. Maybe it's because we're taught growing up not to vandalize property. "Don't throw rocks at the neighbor's house!" "Don't you dare toss those hot dogs into that man's spotless garage floor!" (We might have done that once.) And now we're expected to voluntarily heave a solid leather object in the direction of a small hoop on top of a garage knowing full well that even the slightest misfire might result in an all-out carnage of damaged shingles and busted gutters? Thanks, but no thanks. Dig a hole on the side of the driveway, plant a solid metal pole, and throw a square at the top. Done and done.

The Egg

You know it the second the ball hits your hands. It's an egg. It might look round and it might feel round to the amateur shooter, but to any veteran hooper, the egg is easier to detect than the hairpiece on Marv Albert. You bounce that Eggball and there's no telling where it's gonna end up. It makes dribbling a nightmare. Friendly rolls around the rim are non-existent. It always just feels depressing to me. There's something so peaceful about holding that perfect leather ball, fingers spread wide, one hand on the side, one hand behind. But holding the dreaded egg just sends the complete opposite wave of emotions rushing towards me. I feel disappointment, I feel sadness, and to be honest, I feel violated. Of course it is our responsibility to come to the court equipped with a decent pill to shoot with, but on the off chance that we arrived empty handed, it would be nice to not be forced to visit Egg City. Has anyone even figured out how these basketballs turn into eggs?? I mean, they are round to start, they get bounced around a little bit...why are they suddenly changing shape so drastically?? You could take me and roll me around the floor for a while, bounce me off a trampoline 35-40 times...I think when all is said and done, I'd be lookin' pretty similar to how I do now. Why is a basketball so different? I guess there are certain things in life that are just never explained...

Be Prepared...For Anything

My younger brother Sam is the self-professed "King of Shooting Around." The guy will go shoot anytime, any place. Six in the morning...six at night. Doesn't matter to Sam. He's down. The man just loves to shoot. But with that passion comes a level of preparation typically reserved for life-altering events like weddings and the birth of a new child. While most guys show up at the courts toting a no-frills gym bag, Sam essentially has a piece of luggage draped over his shoulder. Take one look inside and it becomes quite clear that he's not here to mess around. There's an old-school woven jump rope with the big wooden handles. I've never really seen a guy start jumping rope on the b-ball court, but I guess Sam wants to be ready just in case Sylvester Stallone shows up at the JCC wanting to film an impromptu training montage. There are also the various "ointments" and "substances," some of which may be legal...some of which would probably get a horse disqualified from the Kentucky Derby. He's got the ball, his sneaks, and a couple towels. And for the grand finale, an empty can of La Choy Rice Noodles. Why, you ask, would any sane human being take an empty can of rice noodles with him to go shoot hoops? I'll tell ya. Because, as many of us have experienced before, sometimes you get to the court, you have your gear on, you're ready to start bombing away. Then you realize...the ball ain't got enough air. It's one of the most deflating (literally) feelings in the world. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Unless you're Sam. Because when you take a step back from his perceived insanity and actually look inside that old can of rice noodles, you will find a needle. A needle that is then attached to a pump. Which allows you to re-inflate your rock, and avoid a potentially tragic and most sudden end to the day's proceedings. See, the needle and pump combination is often overlooked, but today, it gets its due. You could make the case that the basketball pump has saved more lives over the years than the insulin pump. So while we poke fun at Sam for his oversized gym luggage and wild assortment of performance-enhancing materials, we must also pay homage to his forward thinking. For he is the guy coming to the rescue when that first bounce of the ball reveals a lack of air and trouble on the horizon. The La Choy Crunchy Rice Noodles that were once once housed in that can never let anybody down. Now that same can contains a needle. A needle that keeps our basketballs healthy and thriving at a time when they need it most. I like to refer to this as the "Circle of Life."

Can't Just Drive By

Shooting around is a wonderful activity to participate in, but for a basketball junkie, watching someone else hoop it up can be almost as satisfying. You ever find yourself driving through a neighborhood, see a kid readying himself for a 12-footer from the corner, and not stop to watch the end result??!? If you just pass right on by without blinking an eye or hitting the brakes, then I don't think I wanna know you. I could be driving a taxi with a pregnant woman in the back ready to give birth at any moment...I'm still not going anywhere until that little fella on the circular drive puts up some kind of shot. You can yell and scream all you want back there, lady...I'm a hoop-head of the highest order. It's who I am, and I ain't changin'...

Got a thought on the timeless art of "Shooting Around"?? Drop it here, or shoot me an E-mail at


BShoke said...

Enjoyed the post. My pump saved the day yesterday for the jcc league I play in when the game ball was flat. I got a little teasing for having a pump, but it is a small price to pay. Thought you would find it amusing that Dale Davis plays pick up at my gym. Keep up the good work!

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