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Pick-up Basketball: A Confession



First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my lovely bride-to-be, Brianna Lynn.  I’ll begin catering to her every will today by not blogging about hockey (sorry dear, still sports.  Jersey Shore blog is in the works though.).  Love you lots!


I love playing basketball.  For a brief, responsibility free period of my life, about 15 friends from high school did too.

For those years on the Lakeview Courts, it wasn’t too hard to scrounge up enough guys to get a competitive game going.  And we took it pretty seriously – probably too much, sometimes.  Y’know, the times where you can’t invite a certain two guys to the court on the same day for fear of a fight?  Yes, Neil, I agree – Patterson did have the tendency to charge and play just a tad physical.  And yes Matt, Neil was a huuuge smartass.For those of you who’ve played your own versions of what we called “ghettoball”, (which in hindsight was probably not the most PC name for it), you know there’s supposed to be golf-level etiquette.  You call your own fouls, keep the teams fair and try not to be the guy who shoots every time the ball gets worked over to him.

The problem with street basketball was that, if you were tall, you usually won.  Nobody was running a play to draw the big guy out from under the hoop in our fun-and-run style of play, I can assure you that.  Especially in a game solely comprised of white Canadian kids.  So for that, I say damn you, Paul Atkin.  Rebound, miss.  Rebound, miss.  Rebound, elbow you in the face, miss.  Rebound, basket.  Count it!  Our tall friend happened to be the nicest guy on the planet and an international Karate champion, so we tended to just wait out the misses ’til he coaxed the ball through.

Now the tough part.  The reason I’m writing about ghettoball is to make a confession.  It’s been weighing on me for years.

One of my best friends is occasional blog commentor, Neil.  Neil and I were both points guards in high school (to whatever extent you can claim to “be” something while being inadequate at your job.  Oh, I’m an accountant, the only thing I’m bad at is math.  I thought we were good until I saw US high school games), so when it came to ghettoball, we rarely played on the same team.  We guarded each other, and I claimed it was a pretty even duel.

But truth be told…. it probably wasn’t. 

Neil, you were just better than me.  I tried to argue my side for years, but you were just too good.  That finger roll (with the white guy heel kick at the end) was unstoppable.  Your consistently intense defensive prowess was unrivaled (and often intimidating).   And your vision?  Man…. eagle style, with the peripheral vision of an owl (they probably don’t have any, since they can go exorcism-style-head, but whatever).

So there you have it.  A public forum for a heavy confession.

As much as that was a weight off my shoulders, I think we’d both agree we were no match for the sheer will of Hampson.  I mean, that one’s a given.

Pick-up games, in any sport, are when sports are at their purest.  You’re not playing for a damn thing but fun and some pride.  I miss those days.  As you get older and try to assemble a dozen buddy’s for a pick-up game of anything, tiddlywinks, it takes cancelling plans, finding babysitters, booking time off, getting spousal permission, just entirely too many things to make it work.

Those were the good ‘ol days, and I miss them.  Even if I was only fit to be Neil’s backup.

{Writers note: not nearly enough people referred to me as “Air Bourne” in those days.}

Like this, but with less diversity


18 Responses to “Pick-up Basketball: A Confession”
  1. Will77 says:

    Happy Birthday to the future Mrs.

    Though I must admit, I was sure todays blog would include at least sympathy towards Jack Hillen taking a slapshot (and of course, it was an Ovechkin slapper, out of anyone in the league) to the face last night, but birthday wishes are birthday wishes.

  2. jtbourne says:

    Yup, the Hillen mention is tomorrow for sure. I feel bad for him, but the puck that hit me was a flat, bomb of a shot that had all it energy absorbed – stopped, in fact – by my jaw. At least SOME of the energy from Ovy’s bomb was absorbed by it being tipped. But you’re right, it had to be Ovechkin, eh? Fak. Hope he’s doin’ well, my heart certainly goes out to him.

  3. crushasaurus says:

    I played basketball for about two years in school, I could pass and dribble beautifully but because I have weak wrists (something rare in a teenager) I never got the hang of that goose neck shot technique. I just lobbed it somewhere near and hoped it went somewhere near. Must be said though, Hillen’s teeth did a beautiful job of blocking that shot, shame the 7 that went in on the night weren’t upended as effectively.

  4. Koharski says:

    Nice tags on that one. Real slick.

    I hate basketball, dude. I always seem to jam a finger, roll my ankle, or just lose my balance and fall over like a fool. I grew up in Queens and because of teenage-territory reasons my friends and I played a lot of American Handball. I’ve found that a lot of people outside of New York or Florida aren’t even familiar with the game which is strange to me, it’s popular amongst kids here and HUUGE in Puerto Rico for some reason.
    It’s really fun, you only need a wall and a ball, and there are like 5 variations of the game you can play if you have not enough or too many people.

  5. The Franchise says:

    Love the ghettoball.

    Best ghettoball game ever was a part of was during an interrupted 3-on-3 game during highschool. Some kids from on one of those Christian missions (you know the ones in white shirts and black pants that knock on the door at the worst time) were passing by and thought to inquire to our belief system. After determining that we were heathens they aptly challenged us to a 5-on-5 game. Obviously, protecting our neighborhood court we accepted.

    After about 2 minutes it became clear, that even in their white shirts and black dress pants, this was the church’s unofficial basketball team. One kid (who confessed after he was all-state from Hawaii) was about 5’2 and the best ball handler I’ve seen live, the slow lumbering giant somehow found a fountain of youth before stepping on the court and transformed into a young Shaq. Final score Christian 11 Heathens 4.

    They then proposed a rematch whereby we only needed 3 points to their 11 for a win. If we lost we would agree to sit down and listen to their ‘message’. The rematch turned into an hour long epic battle of church v. science. With the score sitting at 10-2, one of our Heathens got open from just beyond the arc and let go one of the silkiest smooth jumpers our court had ever seen, despite a random late gust of wind (God?) the ball managed to rebound in off the front of the rim. Heathen win!! Christians taunted off the court!! My ticket to Hell stamped??

    To this day I consider the win a defining moment in my adolescence.

    Even for white Canadian kids ghettoball is a summertime classic. Enjoyed the blog, brought back some good memories.

  6. AiH says:

    Great story from The Franchise. You know what, I don’t know if I have the power to do this, but whatever, I’m declaring the comment by The Franchise to be today’s blog and the blog by Bourne to be a comment.

  7. jtbourne says:

    Yep. It’s definitely the entry. I had planned on directing people to it in tomorrows blog. Great story, Franchismo.

  8. I used to have these sick no-look passes but if you weren’t watching they might break your nose.

  9. PVeltkamp says:

    Is it just me or does American Handball look like squash but only if you can’t afford the racket?

    Great tags Bourne.

  10. Neil says:

    That’s a great story Franchise, we definitely had a similar thing going on in Kelowna where the Christian schools seemed to have really friggin good basketball teams, usually with one kid that went on to play Div. 3 at Fresno until he realized he was 90 miles behind the average U.S. player.
    lol Hampson your no-look watch-your-face pass was deadly, I totally forgot about that. wicked
    Fucking Atkin… I swear to God the guy would drain three’s all day shooting with TWO HANDS, not one for guidance and the other for shooting, but literally, the “I’ve never played before but I think this is how you do it” two-handed shot, and he killed us with humility and kindess while doing it. Asshole. :)
    As for my clearly superior skill… well, let’s just say, I’m assuming it would only take me a year or two in the gym to become a better hockey player too.

  11. minnesotagirl71 says:

    Guys are supposed to get permission from their spouse before joining a pick up game? Crap – what did I do wrong? My hubby plays twice a week all winter – all plans are formed around the basketball schedule. I almost divorced/killed/neutered/maimed/took all his money and ran off with a hockey player a few years ago when he asked “You don’t really want to celebrate your birthday ON your birthday, right?” Of course not love-of-my-life I know it’s a basketball night….sigh. If he played hockey – at least I would enjoy going to watch the games!

  12. Koharski says:

    PVeltkamp: You’re probably right. I’ve never played squash or known anyone who did but it’s basically the same, except in the street you play with a softer ball. You tweak the rules using lines in the sidewalk for boundaries, you can reverse the rules and play Chinese handball, play Suicide if you have 10 or more people, Asses Up which involves everyone getting a free shot at the player who is out, it’s good stuff.

    Great Story from the Franchise. It reminds me of Chappelle’s show when Charlie Murphy gets challenged by Prince and his band, and they globetrotter all over him.

  13. Char says:

    Happy birthday, Brianna! :-)

    Ugh, I hate basketball. Any sport that requires hand/eye coordination (as opposed to hand/stick or hand/racquet) is a major FAIL.

  14. Jbrown says:

    JTB, if it makes you feel any better, Neil is REALLY bad at co-ed rec soccer. Oh wait.

    Goddamn you Neil.

  15. jtbourne says:

    Little disappointed nobody (but Koharski) caught the tags. Neil beat me in fantasy hockey this week. Sadly, reality isn’t much different than the post – Neil was a baller. Honorable ghettoball mention: Jordan Coble, Jordan Parro, Beckmann, the Wills twins (grrr), Carly Beaton… (okay, I’m half-cut and thought she’d be a funny name to add).

  16. Will77 says:

    Awesome story by the Franchise, and I noticed the tags afterward and got a good chuckle. Before I hit the age of reason (or noticed a “theme” with NBA players), my dream until age 12 was to play pro ball. I was actually one of the best 3 players growing up in our town leagues and in middle school. As a note, our diversity level was about the same as your Alaska games, instead of “West” in my town name we were called “White”. Suddenly I got to HS, and the other teams got waaaayyyy taller, and wayyyyy more, um, tan. And thats when I decided to start playing ice hockey lol

  17. TheCanadian says:

    I too played high school ball. Needless to say, at 5’8″ and about 135 lbs at the time, I wasn’t the center. I wasn’t much of a shooter but I could dish and dribble like a white Curly Neal. I also played b-ball like Darcy Tucker plays (played?) hockey. After an embarrassing 2 seasons of being fouled out nearly every game, , I decided to stick to hockey.


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  1. [...] If you didn’t catch it, yesterday’s post on my buddy Neil owning me at basketball came with one of the best stories of all-time in the comment section.  I suggest you check out the comment by The Franchise here. [...]

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