The year was 1985. The school was Henry Opukahaia Christian on the Big Island of Hawaii and I was a sophomore that just transferred over from the large school in the area, Waiakea High. I was extremely skinny meaning I was very quick and although I had never played the game of basketball I was told ‘play or else’ by the principal of the school.
Not only had I never played a game of basketball, I wasn’t familiar with any of the rules of the game. My dad took my brother and me out to throw the football around, never did he try and shoot hoops with us. I didn’t watch it, didn’t care for it and had a steep learning curve.
Our team was bad, real bad, but our coach was old school and he was determined to make us the fastest and toughest team out there. When I say old school I mean like giving you a forearm to your chest old school as you shot a layup. We practiced outside on the black top with one hoop. Didn’t matter if it was raining (this is Hawaii you know) we still had to practice.
I had very little strength at that age – couldn’t even touch the net during our pre-game drills but I played with heart which earned me a starting position. I’ll never forget our first off island trip to Oahu. It was a blast to travel with the team. We played a game against King Kam and I was an animal on defense. King Kam had a good team, they always do, but I stuck on their top scorer like white on rice. We were getting blown out but I still played hard, in fact ended the game with six steals. My last steal happened at the end of the game where I was given two bonus shots from the free throw line. I looked over at my coach and he smiled and nodded his head as if to say ‘good job.’
The nerves, man, I still remember them to this day. There were about 200 people watching and the ref gave me the ball. With both hands I grabbed the ball on each side and lined up the lines right. Coach took special care in teaching me how to shoot free throws. I looked up through the sweat coming off my brow and bend my knees in unison with a little bounce. The ball was released perfectly. Back spin? Check. On line? Check. Airball? Check. Yep. I just airballed a free throw granny style.
I don’t think the entire Island of Oahu was there but it sure felt like it. The burst of laughter was probably heard back home in Hilo. Everyone was laughing, the fans, my teammates, the other team, the principal, cheerleaders everyone except my coach. Who gave me the same smile and nod. I turned back to look at the rim and the ref handed me the ball laughing. He said, “I’ve got to see that again.”
If you don’t know me you need to know that I’m relentless and never lose focus or give up. I took the ball, lined it up, bounced the knees and released granny style once again. It seemed like forever as the ball spun in slow motion to the hoop. It did look good but so did the other one, would I airball another granny shot?
“SWISH.” That net snapped as the ball went through. The entire gym erupted in cheer and I couldn’t contain my smile. It was my first basket ever and a memory I will never forget.
Fast forward twenty some odd years and you have me, an aging 42 yr old, that still hoops it up 2-3 times a week and has two kids playing YMCA basketball. Taya J who I blogged about yesterday had a game last night and this morning my son Luke played with his Kindergarten team.
Today we were late (couldn’t tell the little old Jehovah Witness ladies that I had to go) but made it to the start of the second quarter. The coach put Luke in and he started to play. They have him playing point guard since he’s a pretty good dribbler. (One thing I learned by starting sports so late – get your kids playing as young as you can).
Luke dribbled the ball and passed it to his teammate. Luke and I have been practicing on our own that when he passes the ball he should jab step away from the rim and run to the box under the basket. Luke’s teammate saw him and passed him the ball. Luke caught it and looked at the rim, he was so close that it looked like he was going to attempt his first shot in the game. He rose the ball up to shoot then changed his mind and underhanded it so he would reach the rim.
“SWISH.” That net snapped as the ball went through. The entire YMCA gym erupted in cheer and I couldn’t contain my smile. It was my son’s first ever basket and a memory I will never forget.
At halftime Luke ran over to me and asked if I saw that he made a basket. I said, “I sure did buddy, now go get another one.”
It wasn’t until later that I realized my son made his first basket shooting the granny shot. Just like his old man. I’m so proud.