Basketball And The Wrestler

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April 12, 2012 by David Gillaspie

When Your Neighborhood Weight Room Has A Basketball Court (also seen on

Get choked? Take a punch in the head? Pick-up basketball gathers all kinds. Take a ball to the hoop and get ready.

Since sports call for effort, and everyone is a superstar in their Jordan’s, gym ball brings out more than anything Dr. Naismith wrote in his rules.

He didn’t know real players don’t need rules, they were born with hoops greatness imbedded in their DNA. They might be a few nucleobases short of a complete strand, but that’s part of the game.

For some it’s a warm-up before their real work-out on the bench, but it’s life for others.

A classic league all-star chooses to play with the big boys. He’s got the handles and he’s been wearing out his age-group opponents with his trademark moves. He’s ready to move up.

The All-Star learns from college rec-league players. He learns to earn his time on the court, to see what works, what translates. He adapts his game, asks a few friendly questions.

Classic league kid deserves props for stepping his game up. College rec-player gets props for playing hard and showing why some moves work and others don’t without the usual humiliation.

Between the thirteen year old kid and the twenty four year old college grad are every other player, the good, the bad, the ugly.

Half court guy only plays on one end, whether it’s a full court game or not. They’re thinking about the three point line and their next change to throw up a long ball. Since you can’t shoot threes on defense, why bother running to that end of the court?

You recognize these players by their girth, their yellowed headband, and a shirt so small their gut flops out. In certain circles, that belly is called an apron. Those circles are weight-loss surgery offices. Half Court doesn’t have a problem, you do.

Greatness is easy to spot. They’ve got the NBA body, the NBA moves, and the D minus League brain.

Greatness won’t pass the ball anymore than Half Court. They shoot from everywhere because of Jordan’s words on a poster, “You miss every shot you don’t take.”

For them, every shot is another chance to be who they could have been if not for the high school coach, the AAU coach, and the junior college coach. Greatness didn’t like them. They tried to change his game. They didn’t understand him and what he was all about. You don’t understand, either.

Greatness is a shooter. His favorite player is Denver-era Carmelo, the guy who punched a Knick in the head and backed up at hyper-speed. The best part of Greatness’ game is his vocabulary.

“Don’t do that,” he warns.

“Don’t try that against me.”

“Don’t bring your weak cheese in here, man.”

Greatness understands Classic League kid and cuts him some slack. He understands Half Court for what he is. They share parts of the same attitude.

College Rec Guy annoys Greatness with his all-round play and respect for the game. Rec Guy ignores the chatter. He does Do That, he does Try That, and he brings Strong Cheese. Rec Guy takes Greatness into the paint, spins him dizzy, and pops a floater.

Greatness responds by punching Rec Guy in the head on the way up the court, a blindside whack he’s intimidated and bullied gym ballers with for years. It’s the same move he tried in high school, AAU, and the jc, the move that got him dismissed from every team he’s played on.

It didn’t work on the gym court, either.

Rec Guy looked short and thick at six feet tall, two hundred thirty pounds, the sort of pud Greatness pushes off every court without proper supervision. Except Rec Guy was also a high school wrestler. He didn’t back down from the guys his sport put on the mats, same goes for basketball.

“That’s your game?” Rec Guy said after the punch.

“What. What’s the problem?” Greatness said.

“Yeah, I know. No one saw it, except everyone but you. A cheap shot might be in your rules, but it’s not in basketball.”

“What are you calling a cheap shot? Can’t you take it?”

“Take it? I’ve heard you all week. Don’t this, don’t that. I can take it. I’ve seen you run kids over. I can take it. Now you’re punching? I can take it. I’m right here. But I can’t take the idea of a grown man playing like a fifteen year old.”

“Who are you calling a kid. I’m a thirty-four year old man. That’s who I am.”

“A grown man punching me in the head during a gym game is worth bragging about. Where’s your phone? Maybe you ought to call your pals and tell them the big news, “Hey, I punched a guy in the head in gym ball.” It’s okay if you don’t, though. You don’t look like you have any friends.”

“I’ve got friends.”

“Not here, Punchy.”

“What are we doing, talking it out like your momma in therapy?”

“What do you go, about 6′ 5″? 6′ 6″? Here’s what I’m not doing. I’m not snapping your chin into your chest, sweeping your feet, and choking you out on the hardwood like you deserve. Right? I’m not popping your sunken chest and driving you into the wall with a double leg, your head whipping on your noodle neck. Okay? Not doing that.”

“Listen to the bad man.”

“I didn’t punch someone in the head, didn’t sneak up and drill them. That’s you. I’m telling you what’s not happening, and you can see me right here.”

“I’m right here, too. Here we are.”

“Not for long. Here’s the gym monitor. Maybe you can cry for him, but I’m not making you cry.”

“I don’t cry.”

“Maybe you should. Hey, monitor, this is the guy who’s sucker punching people in the head. Talk to him before he hurts himself.”

The monitor surveys the teams.

“That right?” he asked.

Heads nod.

“That’s it, then. You’re out for a week. Come back early and it’s a month just like last time.  Get your stuff,” he said.

“That’s how you play?” Greatness asked Rec Guy.

“I play here. You don’t. That’s how the team plays.”

“Are you supposed to scare me? You don’t.”

“That’s good,” Rec Guy said. “Glad we didn’t get that far. See you in a month.”

The original Rules of Basketball from wiki:

  1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
  2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands.
  3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.
  4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
  5. No shouldering, holding, striking, pushing, or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next basket is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.
  6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules three and four and such described in rule five.
  7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
  8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there (without falling), providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
  9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.
  10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify people according to Rule 5.
  11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the baskets, with any other duties that are usually performed by a scorekeeper.
  12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
  13. The side making the most points in that time is declared the winner.

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