Column: Watching His Airness helps me aspire to be like Mike
Finding something similar between my basketball game and Michael Jordan’s seems laughable, but the two of us share a common bond this winter. We’ve both staged comebacks on the hard court.
In Jordanesque fashion, this fall I cited “love of the game” and ended a self-imposed hiatus of nearly two years and returned to playing hoops. Of course, Jordan returned to the NBA and I hit the court for pickup ball at St. Gall Catholic Church.
Let’s say neither of us are the players we once were.
I’ve gleefully followed the trials and tribulations of Jordan’s latest comeback, taking satisfaction in the details of him losing a step here, an inch or two there on his vertical leap and struggling with getting into game shape. The beauty of someone like me returning to the game is it’s difficult to lose attributes one never possessed.
I was never very fast nor impressed anyone with my jumping ability, which means I didn’t “lose” much during the past two years off the court. I think that has something to do with the laws of diminishing returns.
Nonetheless, I’m glad to have rekindled a passion for a sport I’ve played nearly all my life. Ironically, one of my first competitive forays into the sport was as a member of my Catholic grammar school team. Playing hoops at a church again completes the circle for me. As an added benefit, I’ve taken to telling out-of-town relatives that I’m going to church regularly (we play Sunday afternoons).
Like Jordan, I too have endured the pain of staying away from the game for an extended stretch. The first full-court game I survived a few months ago caused near crippling aches for days. Strangely, the hurt felt good.
In time I’ve slowly worked through the cobwebs and regained stamina and a feel for such intricacies as shooting, passing and playing defense. I may have a ways to go before recapturing some semblance of skill, but for now I’m enjoying the workout and the camaraderie one finds in playing sports.
We may not play for millions like Jordan, but impressive drives to the basket or a good shot or pass usually don’t go unnoticed among the regulars. Neither do the odd plays or less than flattering moves.
One friend, who had been waiting several weeks for his specially ordered shoes to arrive, finally got the chance to discard his old sneakers for the eagerly awaited high tops. After he missed several easy inside shots during the first game of the night, more than one player took notice.
“Hey, it must be the shoes D too much spring. You need to break those things in before you try and play,” joked one player.
Until my sneakers are properly broken in, I’ll settle for the satisfaction of huffin’ and puffin’ through another workout. Besides, if His Airness can go 2-for-10 and score a career-low six points (as he did last week), there’s hope for those of us on the comeback trail who want to be like Mike.
Peter Kostes is publisher and editor of The Record-Courier.