I used to be able to dunk a basketball.
This is way more remarkable to me than the fact that Tom Brady could have played baseball for a living. Yanno, instead of marrying a Brazilian supermodel.
Seriously though, Brady is a top tier athlete whose ability to excel at multiple sports (including being married to a Brazilian supermodel) isn’t all that unbelievable. Whereas my ability to throw down a regulation sized basketball through a regulation sized basketball hoop . . makes no fucking sense whatsoever.
If you saw me play basketball in high school, you’d understand what I’m talking about. My skill set consisted of free throw shooting and flirting with cheerleaders. I shot a solid eighty five percent from the charity stripe, while my luck with the cheerleaders wasn’t nearly as impressive.
That’s where dunking came in to play. I figured that my ability to slam home two points would allow my coach to call off the search party for yours truly. So I underwent a rather arduous ‘flight training’ program. It consisted of running, squats, dead lifts, skipping rope and downing a couple raw eggs every morning. The eggs weren’t going to make one bit of difference as far as achieving my goal was concerned, but I’d seen Rocky Balboa do it and it seemed like the kind of miserable shit a true athlete would subject himself to, so there’s that.
My ability to perform the slam dunk wasn’t a linear progression. I kept to the workouts, but I quit playing basketball seeing as how my jump shot was killer . . . unless someone was defending it. Football was a much better idea since I actually had some skills catching the pigskin and was fearless (stupid) when going over the middle. And as it turned out, cheerleaders dig the touchdown catch.
So it happened one day when playing a pick basketball game with friends in at Beach Channel High School that I slammed one down. It felt as if I’d just planted my Pumas on the moon; and unlike the Disney sponsored moon landing in 1969, this one was for reals.
This white boy had jump. I was a Galileo science project in rewind, with the most obtrusive entry point to the ring of fire this side of an earthquake. In other words, it wasn’t Dominique Wilkins I was flashing when I reached up to the heavens. There was no art to my form, only prayers and dumb luck. And practice, lots of it.
I recalled this magical moment whilst shooting hoops recently. While my set shot can still cook in fits and starts and my free show shooting finds that same old rhythm, my jump done left the building. I wouldn’t be able to slam home a basketball nowadays without a ladder, a priest and an EMT in attendance. And that’s okay, because that wheelhouse of a long lost time gave way to other athletic pursuits. Each with specific challenges whose obstacles appealed to me as worthwhile challenges.
When my jump stopped going vertical, I didn’t cry about it. I simply fused that splintered energy into lateral spins rather than vertical leaps. Skiing, rock climbing, running and martial arts to name a few. These were endeavors that my younger self never would have imagined getting into, much less loving. Looking back, the idea of gaining four feet didn’t seem audacious in the least. It simply allowed me the chance to feel as if I could do anything I set my mind to if I practiced hard and never stopped believing the rim was a proper destination.
As it turns out, that jump never left. It simply changed zip codes.