I know basketball didn’t exist yet. This is a story. I made it up. Let’s pretend together.
“I want you to see me.”
John Hancock is a SHOWBOAT. The other six won’t let him play. He tags along and shoots on the side goal and he WILL NOT stop slapping the backboard on all his layups. Every shot he hits, though, he keeps shouting that same refrain.
“I want you to see me.”
He is a chucker and, if they let him play, every single time he touched the ball it’d be going up. Mark it down.
The “other six” and “they” that I reference are the Big Dogs of the Second Continental Congress.
It’s their weekly pickup game. It’s late August in 1775 and it is hot in this Philly gym. It’s a fascinating thing, really. All these guys think they are the Grand Master of everything that moves. None of them are big fans of one another. They wear their distrust toward each other all over their faces. But still, every week, they get together to hoop. I know. It makes no sense to me either.
Adams and Hamilton both have separate beefs with Jefferson. HEATED beefs. Hamilton’s in particular is just extremely bitter. This comes out on the court. Last game Jefferson went up for a jumper and Hamilton stuck his foot underneath Jefferson as he landed. Jefferson did not take too kindly to that. Almost rolled his ankle. They went at it for awhile until Washington broke it up.
Jefferson doesn’t vibe with Adams or Hamilton. He feels like, if this independence from the King does actually wind up being achieved, Hamilton and Adams will be the first bros in line to start a monarchy. “King Makers” he calls them.
Hamilton and Adams think Jefferson is an effeminate man. A pious dude who thinks highly of himself. A man who would rather spend his days at his home. Thinking. Reading. Playing his violin. Not a real man. Least, not according to Hamilton and Adams.
I’m the only one in here. I’m essentially an errand boy. I exist within these walls so I can fetch the gentlemen a drink of water when they need it and so I can shoo the little boys away from the windows of the gym when they try to peak at the Great Men playing the great game of basketball.
It’s strange. They make a big deal about the playing of the game, making sure all the people of the town know it is happening, but they don’t want a soul to see it.
My name is Jonathan, but to them I am known only as “Boy”. That is fine with me. I am sixteen and my father is a blacksmith in town. That is not important, though.
The Big Dogs have fitted me with parchment, ink, and a quill. Washington ordered me to “occupy myself” with them and stay out of the way. Ay yay.
The six of them play three on three. They go to 21 by 1’s and 2’s. Offense calls fouls. They are epic games and Hancock is not allowed to play. He is not allowed to play because he is annoying and he “plays like a blind squirrel would play”. That’s a direct Hamilton quote from the last time they played in Philadelphia.
Washington and Jefferson are captains because they care the most and they are both the tallest.
Washington, who is quiet and always seems to think himself above it all, wins the toss and gets the first pick. His face is a smug one.
He points at Adams.
“I’ll take His Mighty Rotundness,” says Washington.
“Shut up, George,” says Adams.
He walks over and stands at Washington’s left.
“Easy, Tubs,” responds Washington.
Jefferson then picks up Madison. Madison’s a scrappy defender who just puts the clamps down on whoever he’s guarding. A real padlock.
Washington then scoops up Hamilton. After that, Jefferson picks Franklin, who has apparently taken time out of his busy sex-having schedule to be here today. Franklin kicks rocks and is angered that he is the last pick.
Franklin tried to smoove in on my mother the last time they were in town. She came to pick me up at the gym and he was waiting at the door, just skeezing the whole time.
He touched my head and messed up my hair.
“Does this strapping young lad have a father?” he asked.
When my mother heard this, she pulled me closer to her and told him that, yes, I did have a father.
“Too bad,” he said as he raised his eyebrows.
Guy’s a creep.
The teams have been chosen, though. It is game time.
Team Washington: Washington-Adams-Hamilton
Team Jefferson: Jefferson-Madison-Franklin
Since Washington got first pick, Jefferson’s team gets the ball.
Washington is a monster. Just a complete glass eater. If the guy catches the ball in the post, he scores. It’s automatic. He likens everything to a war and it serves him well.
Him and Jefferson just hate each other, though. Jefferson’s the only one who’s not intimidated by him and Washington feels he should be. Their philosophies on the game are just so different. Washington is entirely about rolling the ball out there and just playing. Jefferson, supposedly, spent the last six months at Monticello pouring over page upon page of diagrammed plays and zone principles.
Jefferson’s a crafty point guard in his own right. His teams really take on his personality. Thoughtful, smart teams that move the ball and get open shots.
Adams thinks he’s better than everyone. Hamilton is super arrogant. Franklin can’t keep it in his pants for any more than a few hours before he’s out in the streets again trying to get his. Madison stays pretty calm for the most part. He’s the only one, aside from Washington, I’d consider to be chill.
They try to play in a different colony each week to keep the visibility high, give the colonialists an opportunity to see their leaders enjoying themselves, and make sure that they are promoting healthy, active lifestyles for the community’s youth.
Again, though, they don’t let anyone watch. Weird guys.
They’ll usually send Paul Revere ahead by a couple hours to announce their impending arrival and prepare the town for the game.
“They are coming,” shouts Revere, “The Big Dogs from the 2nd Continental Congress are coming.”
He shouts this from atop his speedy steed, then goes to the local tavern and gets drunk. When the game begins, if he decides to watch, sometimes he’ll act as a hype man, announcing some of the action, even though I’m the only one there to hear it.
Thomas Jefferson will try to apply different narratives to exactly what is happening in the game. He’s a thinker.
Everyone is real excited about this whole Declaration thing, though. It hasn’t been officially signed just yet, supposedly that’ll happen when they get back in session, but it’s something they cannot get away from. When someone drives past someone else they always shout, “I declare my independence from thee.” They think it’s more clever than it actually is. Adams gets a HUGE kick out of it.
I digress, though. The game’s about to start.
Oh man. From the side Hancock starts chirping.
“I got next.”
Jefferson sticks the ball under his arm and the rest of the Big Dogs look at Hancock.
Franklin frowns and shuts that down.
“No you don’t,” says Franklin.
Hancock lifts his right leg and tries to dribble the ball between his legs. It takes him three slow dribbles to do it. He picks the ball up and tries to palm it. He can’t.
“You guys scared?” Hancock asks.
“Sure we are ‘Cock,” says Franklin.
Franklin backhands Madison in the chest and they both laugh.
Hancock lowers his eyebrows.
“I told you to stop calling me that.” Hancock says.
“Stop calling you what, ‘Cock?” Franklin asks.
“Shut up,” says Hancock.
Everyone except for Hancock is laughing. He walks back to the side goal and tries to shoot an up and under. The ball rockets off the bottom of the rim and hits him in the head. More laughter.
“Easy, ‘Cock, don’t pull something,” shouts Adams.
Jefferson shakes his head and checks the ball to Adams who tosses it back to him with more speed than Jefferson thought necessary.
“It’s like that, huh?” asks Jefferson.
“Go read a book,” says Adams.
Jefferson’s in triple threat and sizing up Adams as Madison sets a down pick for Franklin. It’s a pin down so Franklin can pop out free throw line extended on the right wing and shoot that jumper of his. It’s “electric”. His joke. Not mine. Seriously. He says it every time he makes a shot.
This is their go to play and Washington knows it. He shows hard, helping because Hamilton didn’t have his head on a swivel and was trailing heavy. Washington’s trying to help up the lane. Jefferson and Madison read it though. Madison slips the screen and opens up to the ball as Jefferson no looks a right-hander past Washington’s head. Madison lays it in with nobody around him.
Washington scolds Hamilton.
“You gotta know that’s coming, Zander,” says Washington.
Hamilton claps his hands in anger.
“Come on, Alexander,” he says to himself. Then, looking at Washington says, “Sorry bout that, George. I got you.”
Washington is Team Washington’s only offense. Adams is undersized. Scrappy, yes, but undersized. Not a lot of skill. He’ll play tough defense and run the offense as best he can, but anytime he actually scores it’s bonus points. Hamilton can hit open shots but can’t create for himself. They live and die with Washington and trust that, when the inevitable double team comes, Washington can pass out of it. Then they’ll try to catch them in rotation and either drive a close out, get an open three, or have Washington re-post.
Jefferson checks the ball up to Adams, returning the favor with a hard throw of his own. Adams waits for Hamilton to clear out of the way. Hamilton runs from the left wing to the right corner. Then Adams dribbles over to the left wing and bounces a nice entry pass to Washington who has Madison dead to rights and sealed in the post on the left block. Jefferson tries to collapse and dig but his double comes much too late.
Washington drop steps, turns over his right shoulder, and goes up with his left. He catches it that low, it’s over. He’s got great touch around the rim and cashmere hands. Bucket. Insta-bucket.
On the next possession Franklin loses Hamilton on a brick wall screen by Madison and hits a two. Then he shakes his right hand and makes a face like he smells something bad and says the word “electric” at the top of his lungs.
Hancock shakes his head on the side, turns back to the goal, and misses another shot.
I turn my eyes to him while the Big Dogs play. He’s truly horrible. Just a really bad basketball player. He doesn’t know that, though. He’s the poster child for fake it until you make it. He steps into each of his jumpers like a little kid that struggles to get the ball up to the rim. The poor guy would be sympathetic if he weren’t so arrogant.
Every time Franklin misses, Hancock is there to shout “Nice shot, Benny. At least there were no ladies here to see it.”
Franklin fires back at him every time and ‘round and ‘round they go.
Goodness. Now Hancock has found a second ball. He’s trying to dribble both of them at the same time. He is actually doing pretty well.
He’s shouting now.
“Look. Hey guys. Look at what I’m doing. Ohhhhhhh.”
Oh. Change that to a “was”. He WAS doing pretty well. Now he’s losing steam. The basketballs aren’t even. The right one is being dribbled much higher than the left one.
Oh no. He lost control of the one he was dribbling with his left. It bounced off his foot and rocketed onto the court.
They’re pausing the game. Franklin sees the ball rolling towards him and he stops it with his right foot. He looks at Hancock who holds his left hand up, inviting Franklin to throw it back to him. Franklin kicks it to the other end of the gym.
“Oh, real cool, Ben,” says Hancock.
Hancock slams the other ball down. Franklin turns around.
“Oh, I’m sorry ‘Cock,” says Franklin, “Did you want that ball?”
“Stop calling me that,” says Hancock.
“Hey guys,” says Franklin, “‘Cock wants me to stop calling him ‘Cock.”
“Geez,” says Hancock, “Whatever, man.”
It’s Team Jefferson’s ball. Hamilton gets caught napping and Madison slithers backdoor. Jefferson dimes him and its an easy bucket.
Adams is furious.
“Ball and man, Zander,” he says, “You have to see both or you may as well not be playing.”
“Shut up, Tubs,” fires Hamilton.
“Awww. Did I hurt his feelings?” asks Adams, “Did the poor bastard child of a Scottish-Irish peddler get his feelings hurt?”
Hamilton steps to Adams, each of them with their fists balled up, and Washington intervenes. He puts hands in both of their chests and they stop moving.
“Easy,” says Washington, “Same team, fellas. Put your swords away.”
These are the men that are supposed to be leading us.
On the next possession Washington hits a hook with his left. He’s a surgeon in the post. Then, Jefferson drops in a floater. Before you can say “taxation without representation” it’s halftime and they pause for a water break.
TEAM JEFFERSON: 10
TEAM WASHINGTON: 10
They walk to the corner of the gym where the trough is located and they each take their turn.
As they drink, Revere walks in.
“And now, quenching their thiiiiiiiiiiiiirst, your Second Continentaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllll Congrrrrrrreeeeeeeeessssssss.”
They guys all pay Paul their respects and dap him up.
While the Big Dogs are distracted, Hancock tries to grab the ladle.
Franklin sees this and swipes it from him.
“Dude,” says Hancock, “Come on.”
“This water is for those that play, ‘Cock,” says Franklin.
Hancock hangs his head and walks to the side goal and sits on his basketball and sulks.
Revere is walking over to me. I guess he’s going to stay.
Time for the second half.
*Special thanks to DH Dilbeck who told me very funny, very interesting things about American History.