The 8:30am call came through from longtime friend Yung Chang. Throughout the past 15+ years we have intermittently gone head-to-head on the courts of Mosswood Park. Legend has it that the likes of Jason Kidd and The Glove (Gary Payton) honed their skills on the same courts. We typically keep it simple; 1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3…half court, make-it, take-it rules in effect. We talked about Linsanity. It turns out I’m playing against another guy, originally from Palo Alto, who has connections to Mr. Lin. “No mercy” rules quickly went into effect.
My passion, aka Basketball Jones, for basketball started in the driveway of our home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dad installed a wooden beam into the ground, poured the concrete and up went the hoop. We always gravitated to the ABA-style red, white and blue ball. Something magical about the spinning ball with colors appealed to me. My team back then was the Seattle Supersonics – Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma, (Milwaukee’s own) Downtown Freddy Brown & Paul Silas. My brother was a Washington Bullets fan (Hayes & Unseld). We staged a couple epic battles in which we would play to 100. So while I was lighting him up with DJ and Downtown shots, he was punishing me down in the low-post, Hayes-style. Bragging rights between brothers was always a huge motivation.
We were fortunate enough to have a custom mini-basketball court in our backyard in Burlington, Wisconsin. My brother’s fade-away jumper, with one foot on grass and the ball ripping through the net was one for the ages. As you can see, I was in “no-mans” land waiting for a rebound that would never come. This court was used in all seasons. Shooting hoops with snow surrounding your court and Evergreen trees backing you up was my basketball zen 365 days a year. My team became the Chicago Bulls. Something about the Big City 75 miles to the south that appealed to me. Reggie Theus, Artis Gilmore, Quentin Daley..that’s right, were talking pre-Jordan Bulls. All I had to do to get the Bulls game in on WGN was to turn the remote-controlled antenna south. The picture was never clear, but it didn’t have to be.
Then there was the Marquette Warriors basketball camp in 7th grade at Carroll College in Waukesha, WI. Al McGuire, his assistant Rick Majerus (R.I.P.) Saint Louis Billikens) and then Senior guard from Proviso East, Glenn ” Doc” Rivers, taught us the finer points of the game. Majerus’ mantra of “change of pace, change of direction,” when running our offensive drills, would stay with me forever. The other indelible image was that of Doc Rivers jamming over Jerome Whitehead in a one-on-one battle. Doc’s vertical jump was amazing!
The biggest improvement I’ve seen in my basketball game is my ability to jump. These results are due to my commitment to the 40 Day Plan. My deadlifts have given me a strength that I didn’t have before and it has positively impacted other aspects of my training. In addition, I surprisingly found a huge improvement in my vertical leap after using the star/slap drill from Z-Health’s S-Phase. The object is to slap your left thigh if the star appears to the left of the line, slap both thighs if the star appears on the line, and lastly, slap your right thigh when the star appears to the right of the line. The goal is to complete as many as possible in a 60sec period. After going through this assessment twice, my vertical leap increased 6 inches. Billy Hoyle would be proud.
Basketball will test your visual skills. Your peripheral vision will be challenged & constantly tested. Your body will move through contortions not to be duplicated in a corporate cubicle setting. Anticipating passes, both on offense & defense, and working to find “open-space” to create scoring opportunities, requires fluid eye & body movement. Stopping on dimes, bracing for contact, dribbling with the right, then left, then behind the back, through the legs..rising up, stroking the ball towards the rim….swoosh….exhale. Repeat. Remember? It’s make-it, take-it, cause I gotta Basketbell Jones!