COMMENTARY — I have a confession to make. Please don’t judge me. It is something I must live with every (other) day.
I love playing basketball. That’s not the confession. I’m not especially good at it. I can “hold my own,” as they say, but I’m no star. That’s not the confession either.
The thing I must fess up to is, well, I play with old guys. Some readers, my kids for example, will undoubtedly say that I AM an old guy. Maybe so. But what I’m trying to admit is that I play with old guys, older than me. And I like it.
Three times a week I lace up the ol’ sneakers and hoop it up with guys who have been around the proverbial block a time or two. I am in my 40s and am usually one of the youngest guys there. We have three hoopsters in their 50s, one or two in their 60s and a handful more in their 70s. Yes, 70s.
In fact, many of these geriatric gentlemen are stepping up their game in preparation for the Huntsman World Senior Games, which are coming up here in St. George in October.
The thing about it, though, is these guys don’t play like they’re in their 60s and 70s. They don’t flash to the basket like I’m sure they used to do a half-century ago. It’s not too often they take a defender 1-on-1 and blow by them. But then again, it’s not too often they try.
Instead, these grizzled gurus of globetrotting play hoops the (dare I say) old-fashioned way. It’s just informal pick-up ball, but every score is the result of a back-screen, a pick-and-roll, a give-and-go or a perfectly-timed back cut and pass for a lay-up.
Even 3-pointers, which weren’t around when most of these guys were in college, are the result of a nice screen or weak-side pass resulting in a wide open shot. Young shooters nowadays could learn a few lessons from these guys. Too often I’ve played with young athletes who, while superbly talented, wouldn’t know how to set a pick unless you gave them an app for it.
Now, I don’t want to come off sounding like some geezer (My dad always says he used to be a teaser and a pleaser, but now he’s just a geezer and a wheezer). I like playing with younger players as well. The challenges are unique to both contrasting age groups.
But old-school hoops has always been about helping the team win by sharing the basketball. One of my seasoned buddies says he gets a special thrill when he makes a great pass that leads to two points.
There’s no doubt that Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durrant want to help their teams’ win as well. Their conclusion, which then trickles down to modern-day basketball, is that the only way their respective teams will win is if they shoot the ball. A lot.
This is what our young people are raised on. Shoot the ball. If you’re open, shoot it. If you’re not open, shoot it anyway. That other guy will probably miss. I’ll shoot it. Double team? I’ll split it and shoot anyway. And so it goes.
Sure, my kids think I’m old. But I don’t feel old, just old-school.
My admonition is this: Just try a pick-and-roll. Young man, if you aren’t sure what that is, ask your dad. After you pass it, cut hard to the basket (that’s a give-and-go). You might be surprised to get the ball right back for an easy lay-up.
Dish out of a double-team or try feeding the post. That assist you get may not count in any stat book, but it may just help your team win.
And winning is fun, no matter how old you are.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.