The Basketball Diaries – Part Three

Ty and I were standing on the sidelines waiting to play. This was somewhere around 2004, and I had been playing basketball three times a week, a couple hours a session, since 1998. Needless to say, my game had changed. After all, I’d now been playing basketball for about as long as I played football, and probably longer when you consider that football was a fall sport, while I’d been playing basketball year ’round.
There are, however, some things you can’t overcome, no matter how much you practice. One of those things is being 5’8″, another is being stockier than a bastard, and a third is being relatively brutal as an athlete (read: I lack finesse).
Still, I was way more confident than I had been, and as I was watching the 5-on-5 game that was going on I found myself getting frustrated. There were a couple guys out there, one in particular, that irked me because they were built for basketball, and yet they weren’t very effective.
Me – 5’8″, stocky, brutal.
This guy – 6’5″, muscular, athletic.
So I’m watching this dude hang around the three point line, waiting for a pass. I’m watching him drift about, not hustling. I’m watching him NOT get down into the paint, bang some people out of the way, snatch rebounds away from mere mortals, and dunk on their heads like a beast.
Me – honey badger.
This guy – sleeping lion.
I said to Ty, “Look at this guy. Hanging around the three point line, waiting for something to happen. I wish I could switch bodies with him. I’d be dunking and breaking backboards.”
Ty said, “Most people only get one.”
“Only get one what?”
Let’s not forget that Ty, while being disgustingly good at basketball, has not been blessed with the prototypical basketball body. Suffice to say, if he would have been six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier, he more than likely wouldn’t have been chatting with me on the sidelines of a pick-up game in an office building.
Ty said, “If you give someone the exact right body and the exact right instincts, what do you have?”
I shrugged.
“You have an NBA player.”
“You’re saying that dude has the body, but not the instincts.”
Ty nodded. “That’s why he’s standing around, waiting for something to happen.”
I nodded, thoughtfully.
He said, “Which would you rather have? The body, or the instincts?”
I said, “The instincts.”
He said, “Then be thankful.”
The game ended, and we stepped on to the court.

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