I realized I would be remiss if I didn't cover the most basic of my histories, the longest-running aspect of my life to date; the fact that I was a baller. I was a through-n-through gym rat and pick-up game junkie.
After I was introduced to basketball at age eleven, it became all I thought about and all I wanted to do. In junior high I played at lunchtime with the boys. I played if I was wearing pants or if I was wearing a dress. In high school, I had a stern coach named Coach Dick Beedy and if you can judge by his name, he was 150 years old which meant his coaching style was the same as the inventors of basketball: All pass, no flash. This was how women’s basketball was coached back then, and it bored me to tears. I was voted MVP of our less than mediocre team that received no attention from colleges, and my hopes of possibly turning pro fizzled -- Oh, and there were no women's pro teams at the time.
I then discovered street ball; pick-up games on park black tops, at Venice beach and at a legendary gym called Memorial Park. In my senior year in high school, I ditched school at least once a week to play at Memorial. I was the only girl that played there regularly and I would light it up from 15-20 feet if the guys underestimated me, which was often. During the NBA off season, a handful of pro players would come to have some fun with the Memorial legends. I also played a stint over at the Hollywood YMCA where I once guarded Arsenio Hall -- I'm not even shitting you. And Denzel Washington would play there on occasion too. Yes he would!
After Husband moved to California, we started playing at a gym that was becoming the Place to Play. During the NBA lock out, the place swarmed with second string pro's and elite college players. We went to the gym a few times a week, giddily. Both Husband and I can recall separate and perfect days at the gym where we won all day long on chemistry-clicking teams. We played five hours of basketball until our shoes nearly exploded off of our blistered feet in a fireball. It was bliss.
During my adult street-ball career, there was one other time that stands out. This was when Husband, his brother G, his uncle R and I went to a park in Queens, NY. Together, we ran those courts all afternoon. Not only were we significantly older than the young studs we played, but I, a woman, was the go-to guy. Typically, I played a non-starring role compared to the dominant male players of my team. This was fine as long as they weren’t cockheads about it and as long as we won. But that day I was ON FIRE. During my entire basketball career, I had had many shining moments where I scored beautifully on dudes, sending the crowd into an uproarious high-fiving fit (nothing is more infectious than that), but that day in Queens I was calling for the rock repeatedly because the basket was the size of the ocean to me. I was fading and draining and strutting. On the final point of the last game of the day, I was passed the ball again -- they knew to honor a hot player, male or female -- and with my guy guarding me tightly I pulled up beyond the free throw line and before the ball left my fingertips, I said, "Game, motherfucka." Possibly one of the greatest days of my life. Husband's brother & uncle still talk about that day, which puffs my feathers like nothing else.
This is one of the only pictures I have of me with a basketball. It's from my year book. I'm a junior in high school, warming up for a game.