Friday, July 18, 2014

What Basketball Taught Me for Premier Hoops by Jasen Sousa

What Basketball Taught Me


I spent many summers as a young boy playing baseball as it was the first sport I fell in love with. 

I was introduced to baseball from playing stickball at the local playgrounds.  For those of you who have never experienced stickball, there are different ways to play with different rules, but it is one of the coolest games ever invented!. 

There are many captivating things that come along with playing stickball, like acquiring a bat.  Acquiring a bat usually consisted of stealing a broom from your parents, cutting off the bottom, and covering both ends with duct tape.   Playing stickball in the city usually meant that you played in confined spaces surrounded by houses, cars, and random walking people.  As a young person, there was nothing like the adrenaline rush that came from smacking a monster shot over a large fence and hitting the window of a house, and of course getting extra points for breaking it. 

As I grew older, I became bored with organized baseball, and the speed and athletic ability which existed in basketball began to intrigue me.  

There was a kid who lived behind me, his name was Kenny, and he was considered the best basketball player in the neighborhood, even by the older kids who didn't know anything about sports.    
He was a few years older than me, so when I finally reached the age where it was acceptable by young people laws to hang out with him, he introduced me to the game of basketball. 

The summer of 1992 was all about basketball.  The Dream Team was assembled and began putting on a show for the rest of the world.  The Chicago Bulls were on the verge of becoming a dynasty and Michael Jordan was everywhere  in the mainstream media.  Here in Boston, the Celtics had a rising star in Reggie Lewis as the Larry Bird Era was coming to an end.  There were also these cool new videogame systems like Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, and they had these awesome basketball games like NBA Jam and NBA Live. 

Basketball just seemed like the thing to do, but I was terrible at it!

I lived directly across the street from an amazing single rim, rusty, one hoop court at Lexington Park.  My second floor bedroom window had a direct view of the court.  I could see whenever Kenny was there (this was before cell phones people!) and I could hear him bouncing the ball and I remember my heart starting to beat faster as the sound would get closer and closer. 

I had just finished 6th grade and my body was mush, like a human 5'3" statue of Jell-o.   I didn't have any power, strength or coordination to me at all.  My jump shot did not have any jump.  I didn't leave the ground at all and while the ball started off in two hands, my shot consisted of me hurling the ball up to the rim, kind of like when I threw from the outfield to the infield.  I was pretty bad.

My friend Kenny taught me how to be good at something.  Basketball taught me how to be good at something.  I knew how good he was and I observed how he practiced.  Kenny and I spent countless hours on the court practicing in the rain, snow, heat, it didn't matter.  It was like a full-time job.  We would wake up early in the morning and see everyone going to work.  We would stay until our stomachs started making weird noises, or until the afternoon sun got too brutal.  We would play a little NBA Jam, watch Bird, Jordan, and Magic in the Olympics, and we would be back out on the court deep into the night until one of the neighbors got sick of listening to the ball echo against their bedroom walls.   

As the days went on, my body, and my mind went through a remarkable transformation.  I dropped weight, gained muscle, learned how to have a pretty shot, and actually gained some pretty decent jumping ability.  I also gained confidence, purpose, and a sense of identity.  I knew who I was and I knew what I wanted to become.  No one was going to sidetrack or influence me to get into destructive behavior. 

By the time 7th grade came along, I was a different person and I will never forget the steps it took to inject change into my world.  I realized that no matter how bad I was at something, that if I wanted it bad enough, I could become better.  Even in the present day, I still use those same principles I learned as a young boy in my personal and professional life.  I feel as though there is nothing out there in the world that I can't learn and become successful at, and that, is what basketball taught me. 


 Contributing writer Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops is the author of a number of poetry and fiction books for young people.  Jasen has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and is a life-long participant and fan of the game of basketball.  

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