The Basketball Diaries – Part One

Many years ago I had the unique opportunity to play basketball during lunchtime at work every day. This was back when I was at Compuware and they had a legitimate court inside the building. There were quite a few young guys in the organization and we got into some serious 5-on-5 pickup games while I was there. And it was competitive as hell because so many people were waiting to play. You didn’t want to lose and have to sit out and watch.
It was during this time that I met a dude named Ty. Ty is the reason I started this section of my blog, The Basketball Diaries. I’m not sure how many parts there will be, but the first three, and maybe four or five, will be dedicated to Ty and the life lessons I learned from him.
But let’s step back for a moment.
Those of you who know me well, know that I was into athletics when I was a kid and through high school. My concentration was mostly on football, where I was made captain of the team and all that. It’s where I excelled the most. I was also a wrestler, baseball player (until I got booted from the team), and gym glass hero in a variety of ways.
I was never a great basketball player, though. Not exactly built for it, ya know? But when I started at Compuware I recognized basketball was a great way for me to get exercise, and so convenient that it was at work, so I started showing up three times a week.
As soon as I walked into the gym the first time I was labeled a scrub. I wasn’t on par with this guys, and I knew it.
But I wasn’t a chucker. Never a chucker!
Anyway, I know a little bit about grit and determination, so I figured I should just stick around, try to get better, practice my shot, and just get the exercise I came there for in the first place.
But then there was Ty. This dude was otherworldly good. He played in college and excelled, despite that he was not very tall and not very big. He was a dead-eye shot, a great passer, and a great defender. Thing was, he had an eccentric personality. Abrasive, you might call him. He just told it like he saw it, all the time. If this was something you could handle, great. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t like Ty.
Me? I liked him.
For example, Ty was the kind of guy who gave people nicknames on site. He’d say, “Okay, it’s me and Chubs versus you and Flat-top,” and Chubs and Flat-top would look at each other strangely, not yet understanding that they were no longer Joe and Bob, but now, and forever, Chubs and Flat-top.
Ty nicknamed me Holly (short for Holliday), which I could live with.
Another example of Ty’s abrasiveness was when I told him I was reading a book called Do What You Love, The Money Will Come, and that he should give it a read.
His reply, “I’m not reading that book.”
I said, “Why?”
He said, “Did you read the title of the book?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “Then why read the book?”
He was a fucker, like that.
Anyway, knowing Ty was a great basketball player, and noticing that he was always the first guy there, I started getting there earlier and earlier each day. My goal was to learn, and what better way to do so than play 1-on-1 with the best player on the court for a half hour before the games began?
Fast forward a couple years. I had paid my dues. I had become a mainstay at the court. Everyone knew me, and I didn’t get picked last every time anymore. Yay! I felt like I’d improved my shot noticeably, and it wasn’t that bad to begin with, so I felt pretty good about my development. Only no one ever passed me the ball. I was starting to find it annoying. I was making shots when I did get the ball, but still no one had the confidence to give it to me.
So one day I’m practicing with Ty before the game, and I said, “Dude, no one ever passes me the ball. It’s bullshit.”
Ty said, “Fuck you. Why should I pass you the ball?”
I said, “Because I can make shots.”
He said, “Well, so can I.”
I shrugged. “It’s still bullshit.”
He said, “You really want the ball?”
“Of course.”
“Then shut up and go get it.”
I just stood there pulling a dumb face for a couple minutes.
The dude dropped some serious wisdom on me.
Right then and there I changed my mind completely about the game of basketball. I would forget about everything else and simply become an animal when it came to getting rebounds, hustling for loose balls, strips, steals, etc. No one would outwork me. No one would want that sonofabitch basketball in their hands more than me. I would literally shut up and go get the ball.
When the game began I employed my new mindset. I ripped up my knees diving for loose balls. I took elbows to the face while going for rebounds amongst taller players. I ran as hard as I could ALL THE TIME. I never stopped hustling. I never stopped trying. I got beat up, knocked around, and bloodied. But I would be damned before I gave up on getting that ball.
And near the end of that day, as I was busting my exhausted ass to get down the court on offense… someone passed me the ball.
I made the shot 😉

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