I grabbed the basketball from inside the blue cellophane, seated between carefully placed bag packs on top of the cottage bench.
“where are you going?”
“off to play basketball..”
Magnus laughed at me like I was crazy. Like he never heard of Solitaire basketball. Okay, maybe that game doesn’t exist, but Carmelo Anthony had half a court inside his house, and he played alone foryears until he mastered the inside game.
I was off to master the inside game.
“Good luck trying to beat yourself,” said Magnus, with his most sarcastic tone.
He’s right, sort of. I’m playing against myself indeed; pretending someone’s guarding me as I dribble my way towards the hoop, scoring 2 nil for the first successful attempt, giving the ball to my opponent, which is me, of course, daring him to move forward against my impeccable defense, doing the offense, deciding between a jump shot or a slashing move forward..
The more I think about it, the more I begin to realize that I am crazy indeed. But I have no one else to play with. Not even Magnus; for his frame and height, you’d think he’s a sports buff. But the only sport he’s ever come closest to doing is watching grass grow. Or watching paint dry.
And he’s a member of the sungka varsity. How’s that for sarcasm, Magnus?
I can see the basketball court now. 50 more meters and I’ll be shooting 50 percent from the field. I couldn’t contain my excitement I began dribbling the ball. Not the best road to dribble off of, though. I’m walking on pebbles and sand, and my ball was jeering off towards weird angles. 98.5 degrees, 87.6 degrees from the vertical. But I figured this is good practice as well. You never know what happens in a real basketball game; you’re ball could bounce off your right foot under intense pressure.
20 meters. It’s amazing how I kept up with this silent monologue, going smoothly, without tripping over.
I finally reached the basketball court. But what is this! I’ve been beat to the idea of playing alone, and having the court to myself. Someone else came ahead of me; a short guy, probably around 5 foot 2, wait, that’s probably too short. He’s wearing long sleeves for the life of me. This guy has no place in the hard court at all. Or maybe he has a skin disease he’s hiding.
He also beat me to the half court closest the exit. That’s where I usually play, not the farther end. That other half’s ring is a few inches higher than the better half. Poor design. Well, first come first serve. I hope he tires out in a few minutes. I’d give him ten, maybe 15. Obviously, with such a poor frame, well he probably has an inhaler with him right now. The kind that asthmatics bring with them, as if it were their pacemaker.
He stared at me without the slightest hint of expression in his eyes. I probably looked a bit unnerved, I had the feeling of superiority, if only for my more appropriate attire. Plus my ball is a Spalding. His orange looks like a Spalling, or another Hong Kong made imitation brand.
I have to get rid of this arrogant feeling. I have to keep things cool for myself. He’ll probably get it anyway, once he starts looking back at me in sheer amazement as I start shooting hoops like there’s no tomorrow. Swish, swish, swoosh, or whatever, I am counting the eggs before they are hatched, and rightfully so.
Wait, the guy stopped shooting. He’s down on his knees, tying his loose shoelace, or pretending to do so, for all I know. At the back of his mind, whether he’s conscious about it or not, he’s acknowledging the presence of the master. Going down is a kind of bowing motion which was integral to ancient society, or Japanese courtesy.
So I went to the free throw line to start my in game practice. As always, the ring looks really high from down here. I am of decent height, 5 foot 10, 5 foot 11 at best, but even Dwyane Wade can’t dunk over this overextended ring. Wait, who am I kidding? My apologies to the Flash.
I began by dribbling the ball three times and shooting the free throw to get my juices flowing. Swish. Perfect shot. It takes me just around three of the same to get to what Michael Jordan calls being “In the Zone”. Let’s try another one. I took the ball, which was dribbling perfectly underneath the ring, post typical of a perfectly made shot. Going back to the free throw line, I did the same routine. Three dribbles and a quick elbow release. Swoosh. Nothing but net, although technically, there’s no net.
Perfect. Does it matter that the ring is a few inches taller than average? No, because I’m above average. One more try and I’m ready to showcase my skills. The random, beat-me-to-it, long-sleeved guy must be looking at me in amazement right now.
I went back to the free throw line to shoot one last shot. Swoosh!
Wait a minute, that wasn’t me. Unluckily, my ball bounced off the front rim, and wasn’t generous enough to tip it in for a score. In any case, the shot left my hand too early, and was poorly executed. Then whose swoosh was it?
No one else is playing basketball, so it had to be the weirdo. He was hitting shot after shot. He was practicing the layups, free throws, fade aways, Three pointers! He can’t miss! His form is perfect. He was driving towards the rim in full speed, switching hands in mid air as if an imaginary opponent was gonna swap it off if he didn’t. He’s probably playing Solitaire basketball too.
The weirdo was practicing his in game, mid game, three point game, wade game, bryant game, carmelo game. The guy is topnotch, but I had to keep it to myself, and had to readjust my dropping jaw once in a while. I can’t be obvious about being impressed. But I don’t know where my ball is, and I don’t care. Sometimes, you’re the guy on the bench, cheering, and that still makes you a basketball fanatic.
He knows I’m looking. He stepped up his game the moment I decided to stop my own. He’s doing all the weird angles now! What the expletive! Did he just turn his back on the ring, threw the ball back two hands, and did the ball just fall off perfectly, beyond the three point line? Holy expletive! Did he just do a 360, no a 540, if my math is correct, and do a reverse layup at the end of it all?
Thud! This can’t be happening. He just dunked the ball! I know my end of the court’s ring is higher, but the guy is five foot two! After the thunderous dunk, he paused, grabbed the ball,and looked at me. I can see that he’s smiling mischievously; he probably had a hint or two off my apparently unhidden arrogance, and slapped me in the face with his daunting skills.
———— TO BE CONTINUED ————————– BUT HOW DO I CONTINUE?? LOL…..————————