I submitted this entry for a competition on a basketball blog. The prompt is, “what’s the best game you’ve ever had on the playground?” The story is a cleaned-up piece from my China blog. The prize is some AXE products. With these stakes, its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game. On the other hand, my personal hygiene has room for improvement.
My best pickup game happened when I was teaching English in Harbin, China. Being a tall, white guy with a beard, I was a huge novelty. Just walking around, I would take pictures with people, sign autographs, get asked to sing, the usual.
I went to go play on a court at the university where I taught. Once the other players noticed me, they would get a team together and call next on the court. We were playing half-court, 4-on-4 to five, so the turnover on the court was fast.
As I was playing, a crowd of passersby slowly developed. After about an hour, the entire half-court was completely surrounded with people who just wanted to watch a white guy play basketball. By this time, I had gotten the attention of a team of big guys. I’m 6’4″, and all of them were at least my height. I know what you’re thinking, but in a country of 1.2 billion people, there are plenty of big dudes. I have had way more alley-oops thrown on me over there than here.
When they were up, the tallest guy decides he is going to guard me. We went down a couple baskets early. There was no way our team could compete. After we got the ball back, I make an open jumper from the left wing about two feet inside the three point line. We get the ball back, and I catch a pass in the same spot. I pull up for the shot. This time my defender does me the favor of contesting the shot so I could hit it in his face. We get the ball back. My teammate passes the inbound to me at the same spot. My defender backs up and dares me to take the shot. Swish. The crowd applauds. We take it in; I get it in the same spot; my defender backs off; I make it again; the crowd applauds. We take it in again; I get it in the same spot; he dares me to do it one more time; I make it; 5-for-5, game over. Everyone watching goes crazy.
When you step back from it, all I did was make 5 straight jump shots. But the experience was a lot more fun than sitting on the bench for my high school.