Note: this is a purely basketball post. This will not interest 97% of you readers. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Recently, I played proper team basketball for the first time in 5 years.
While this may not seem like a topic worthy of a post for most, those of you that have followed this blog for a while will understand how passionate I am about the game of basketball. However, the corporate life and the lack of basketball amenities have resulted in me becoming an armchair player, if there is such a thing.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I heard that our company has a small practice session every Saturday morning in Colombo! The session starts at 7:30am, so naturally I was awake from 6am, turning up at the court a full half hour ahead of time.
After introducing myself to the players as they turned up, I stepped up to the free throw line to shoot my first free throw in years.
First though, I need you to watch this.
My free throw was only marginally, microscopically better than that (at least I hit the rim).
Now, it's not as if I didn't expect there to be some rust after not touching a basketball since 2008. But I was in for a long, long morning.
My shot mechanics were off, I couldn't seem to get my range at all, and even my layups were caroming off the backboard like I was trying to play dodge ball with it. Needless to say, the initial drills did not make me look very good in front of my new teammates.
Soon we split into two teams for some pick-up games. I haven't played basketball in Sri Lanka, and while in India we run either the standard 2-3 zone or man defense, here apparently they play 1-2-2 zone defense; something I was very unfamiliar with. We played a few points and I think I made a defensive gaffe on almost every possession. This was not going well.
However, after a few more minutes of confusion, things started becoming clearer. And then, finally, it started coming back to me.
See, while the shot was most definitely completely missing in action, and my dribble was shaky at best, the defense was still there. After shutting down a few players on a couple of possessions, I started feeling my confidence returning.
Over the next hour and 15 minutes, I started to really get back into the groove on both the offense and the defense. My team was horrible on the boards so I started playing under the rim, boxing out and cleaning up a few rebounds. I made a few nice crisp passes for assists, disrupted a fast break, and then found myself on a fast break. Unfortunately, I got fouled on the play without trying to anticipate the contact and get off a good shot, for which I vowed vengeance (in a very team-friendly, competitive way, of course). A few possessions later I got the defensive rebound and broke on the fast break again. The same defender turned up, and this time I side stepped him, went behind his momentum and tossed up a floater - a shot I almost never use.
Nothing but net.
Right then, I knew things were going to be okay.
This being the first game in front of the other players, I was determined not to leave without a good report, so even though my abysmal stamina was threatening to shut entire parts of my body down, I kept pushing and hustling on defense, even managing to get a huge block on one play. Somehow, I made it to the end of the practice before collapsing on a bench. I had used up almost every single iota of energy in my body; and it was only 930am.
I know this may all sound rather self-congratulatory, but it really was a celebratory moment for me. I'm glad I get to play at least on weekends now, and the opportunity gives me an outlet to try out all the geeky basketball strategies and plays I've been storing in my head all these years. Even right now I'm researching the best way to break 1-2-2- zone defenses, as well as the proper ways to play it. Hopefully in a few weeks I can try to convince people to shift to man defense and have some proper pick-n-roll, pick-n-pop plays.
Small joys, but they make the week go by a lot easier. Look forward to more basketball posts!