I was asked to write an introduction of myself. While I am loathe to discuss such a mundane subject, it does seem reasonable to explain why anyone would/should give my insights any consideration. If the title seemed skewly familiar, it parodies the title of the semi-autobiographical book of Howard Cosell. Somewhat knowledgable about boxing upon which his journalistic career rode the coattails of Ali, Howard knew almost nothing about football and yet served as an interesting foil for the ex-jocks Dandy Don Meredith and Frank Gifford in the sports-gone-entertainment of Monday Night Football. My credentials similarly lack typical school participation as I was cut from my only school basketball team in the 7th grade for "Mike" who was an inch taller and whose most athletic activity after that year was pulling shoe boxes off the shelves at the local department store for several decades.
Yet I played the game for nearly five decades, passionately and with determination, undaunted by such hinderances as a career, marriage, and fatherhood. I coached intramurals, city leagues, rec leagues, youth leagues, even a few fortunately-tolerated comments in pickup games. I got to know my step child by coaching her youth teams and later basked in the warm glow of the local girls teams' regular appearances in the state playoffs while stocked with my former players. I still feel a guilty pleasure at the schools fall back into mediocrity after those six years passed, and my players graduated. I played in parks, gyms, backyards, city streets, and in the zócalo of several pueblos in Mexico. I played in the rain and snow (rare in Texas); on dirt, concrete, mud, and grass, as well as hardwood; in the daylight, twilight, and moonlight; and on every day of the year including leap day (pun intended). I've played every position including center (at 5'11") when we had only five players and I finished the game after pulling a dislocated finger back into its socket. I've led bad teams where my point guard passes tended to bounce off the faces of my grad-school teammates for whom running was a task requiring most of their concentration. I've been the grease on good teams where I averaged five shots, but was proud of 75% shooting. I've led the team in rebounding (employing my Lee's rule of rebounding: We both jump, I lose--so you don't get to jump, now that's boxing out!) I've received the ultimate "Perkins" compliment--a fellow faculty member cursed out his teammate for not warning him of my pick. I've scored 36 points which only required such phenomena as the ball bouncing off a foot at one freethrow line and madly rolling to the other end (through one players feet as he was alerted to its approach but couldn't bend over in time to pick it up) where I picked it up for a bunny. I've demanded to cover the other team's star, which I reconsidered after my third foul in five minutes. But of all my experiences none has given me more enjoyment than teaching this game that has been such a huge part of my life.
As for the Celtics, I have followed them since it meant watching a grainy image in black and white on a 12-inch screen a half a dozen times a year, buying the more expensive newspaper because they actually had box scores, and treasuring the sports magazines because they were the only source of detailed information. I grew up with the incredible run of the Russell-Celtics, soared and anguished with the up and down 70's, gloried in the rebirth with the original Big Three, railed at the inept 90's, loathed Pitino and almost cried at missing the Big Fundamental. I learned early about playing ball the "Celtics' way" where open shots outweighed degree of difficulty, a beautiful pass outshown tickling the twine, and most of rebounding took place before the ball ever came down.
Oddly my sports writing began with the arrival of Ainge and my retirement from lecturing on databases at the University of Texas. With the availability of time and inspiration I delighted in mulling over the rebuilding, even with its many sidetracks. The bottom line is essentially the question "Why Basketball?" The answer is not a simple one because basketball is not a simple game. Of all the diversions I explored only three were never outgrown. With experience and understanding these grew with me, revealing layer after layer of complexity as I invested more time, effort, and study. Basketball, unlike the other two, duplicate bridge and chess, was also a physical release (every bit as good as the occasional "mental health" [sick] day I took off during my working career). I attribute much of my even temper and tolerance to the bliss of exhaustion and I'm sure my wife, child, and coworkers benefitted whether they knew it or not. So rather than yelling at the TV or kicking the cat, here I find myself working on analyses of Celtics' victory and defeat, plotting about acquisitions and stockpiling picks, and drawing comparisons between basketball and eternal truths--thanks for listening.
Lee and I have a bunch in common actually. The first time I touched a basketball was with my dad as a little kid and he showed me the hook shot and told me to always practice my FT. Which I did, but I later practiced 3's as much as anything.
I used to go to the Y occasionally to play as I got older. I never thought to tryout for any school teams during this time, but I eventually tried out for my Jr HS teams, but never made them. So, the first time I played organized ball was at a local Rec summer league at 15, where I actually experienced what it was like to be "in the zone" for the first time on my way to scoring 25 pts against a Christian Academy, scoring mostly on 3's. I tell ya, I didnt even know what was going on, it just kept going in.
I've experienced a lesser Zone feeling a few more times, but that first time was awesome.
Then, I played HS ball in 9th grade, didnt play in 10th grade, but made the JV team as a Junior. I was pretty good and fast becuz I used to run a lot. I would do 2 to 6 miles which frequently allowed me to be the first one sprinting down the court or hustling back on D. However, I didnt get the PT I felt I deserved and on top of that, was basically promised a spot on the Varsity if one opened up. It did, but I didnt get the spot. Some 5'8" kid who had hustle, but not much else and who was easily intimidated, got my spot and I never forgot that.
I got my own personal redemption, however, when I dunked in a game for the first time (6'2") in front of the Varsity Coach. I even gave him a stare and a grin as I ran back down on defense. The next morning at shoot around my teammates kept goading me to dunk for them which I obliged.
Only two other kids could dunk at our school. A 6'4" dude on the Varsity (he was a monster) and a 6'6" beanpole on my JV team who only scored baskets if he was under the hoop. He rarely got a dunk, he had no handles, no J, no FT, and got pushed around by smaller players.
I found out later there was some politics involved regarding Coach's basketball camp which I didnt attend.
I skipped trying to make the Varsity my Senior year and ran the 2 miler instead for the Track team. I really never had a passion for running like I did hoops though. Running to me was like working out just so I could be better at bball.
I also used to play a lot of street ball at local courts. I always played against older and mostly better competition. During this time Reggie Lewis was my hero and Bird was retiring. Then of course we all know Reg passed (RIP).
I also scored 33 points in a 18+ Mens Athletic Club league when I was 24. My team actually went to the Championship game and got spanked, but I averaged over 14ppg and was 3rd in rebs (cant remember how many per).
Eventually, I slowly quit playing as much due to life mostly. I do get out and get some run in occasionally, and I still got it sometimes, but I'm not as quick anymore and I can only grab the rim with one hand these days. My knees arent shot, but they do get sore from the miles I've put on them.