I’ve never earned much street cred from my basketball skills. In fact, if my high school athletic career were to be featured as an inspirational movie, my character would be played by Charlie Brown (read First At Bat for the screenplay).
Back in my mean, cul-de-sac barrio in Valrico, Florida, kids would gather around a freestanding driveway basketball hoop and imitate the tongue wagging, gravity-defying moves of Michael Jordan. To really dominate the driveway, however, you not only had to have the moves, but also the mouth. Trash-talkin’, self glorification and verbal jabs were the bandages that covered missed layups, airballs, and other damages to our fragile adolescent self esteem. My Reebok Pumps must have had a hole in them in the 90s, because no matter how much I pumped those things, I couldn’t even land a lay up. Even my best “double pump phantom pass” shot usually ended up sailing over the hoop and slamming onto the homeowner’s car, setting off the alarm and scattering the NBA Jammers like cockroaches when the lights come on. My comebacks to these fails consisted of “yeah…well… your mom couldn’t have made it either!” followed by a dagger to the heart: “… and get a life, ya spaz!” The basketball court just wasn’t my domain…unless of course the game was HORSE, in which case Reebok Pumps were useless.
Twenty-five years later, I found myself in a new basketball challenge. The mean streets of my suburban Valrico barrio were gone, replaced by a 3 year-old bounce house birthday party. I was playing with my son in a bounce house that included a basketball hoop in the corner and we were accompanied by two other dad friends: Pablo (AKA Pablito del Barrio) and Aaron (AKA Air N, a title from his mean Cleveland streetball days). Like it often happens when dads gather in a bounce house, things started to fly that maybe shouldn’t. Children were being tossed at alarming heights as grown men crashed into floor, meanwhile cringing mothers walked by wondering where the wives were. Aaron, not satisfied with sending the children into orbit, had the genius idea of doing slam dunks into the hoop. I enhanced the idea by adding an “alley-oop” touch to the challenge, along with slow-mo video footage to chronicle our amazing feats. What resulted was the realization that I severely underestimated my basketball skills… and my barrio was lucky I didn’t unleash my full potential, because there would have been a lot of crushed NBA dreams when they saw me fly.
(unfortunately for Air N, his game is going to need a lot of pumping to regain its Cleveland streetball stature).