Drawllin

Hickory

The Post-Apocalyptic Diary Of Nick Collison (The Final Chapter)


The water is so blue, Diary. Blue like the jerseys we used to wear for road games. Blue like the river that used to wind through Bricktown (Perhaps I have selective memory on the latter). 

I can’t believe I made it. The ocean. My God. This is some promised land, Diary. It reminds me of the first time I ate at a Charlie’s Chicken. The voices of angels mix with the wind. What I mean is, some pieces of Heaven broke off and fell down here.

There are people here, Diary! Writing those words brings rivers to my eyes. NBA players, past and present, are here! Mark Price! Nick Van Exel! Ivan Johnson (of course)!

These last five miles were seven eternities, Diary. I grew weary, but I pushed through. The world tried to screen me, but I held tight to hope’s hip, and I chased it, sticking with it the whole way, because that is what I do.

I forgot what it was like to talk to someone that is not me. The event has not slowed down Van Exel or his mouth. He chatters like a cricket on a warm summer night. Like Tim McGraw and Nelly. Over and over again.

They have pickup games here, Diary. I played yesterday. They fashioned a rim out of a hollowed out old hubcap from Ivan’s Escalade and they used old bits of shredded T-shirts for a net.  It was the first time I had picked up a basketball since the event. It felt strange to me. I was Stella, though. I got my groove back. I drew twelve charges over the course of three games. It is like riding a bike. We played to 21 by 1’s and 2’s. I guarded Ivan. What a rhinoceros he is. I imagine we will become good friends. Perhaps a new world version of the Bash Brothers. I will be Fulton and he will be Dean Portman and we will run these courts and this new world as they ran the ice. Quack quack, Diary. No cake eaters allowed.

There are around a hundred people here in this community. It is up to us to repopulate the earth now. Beyonce is here. Jay-Z is not. I guess she was right. She is a survivor. I will have to battle Van Exel and Ivan for her affections, but I am confident. I’ve listened to If I Were A Boy several times today and I’ve got a hot eight bars waiting for her. I know what she wants.

There will be a campfire by the water tonight. We will make s’mores. I imagine myself and Ivan will joke about The Sandlot together. I will be Ham and he will be Smalls and we will reenact that iconic scene. You’re killing me, Ivan, I’ll say. Mark Price will play the guitar. There are whispers he has worked on covers of some Haggard songs. Here’s to some Okie from Muskogee then, Diary. Hopefully this will also become a place where even squares can have a ball.

We will rebuild this nation, though. It will not be easy, but we will do it. I think Van Exel will be elected our leader. He’s got a way about him. A certain regality that people will undoubtedly vote for. President Van Exel has a pretty nice ring to it. By the way, he still shoots his free throws from 17 ft.

The main strip of town we have named Ocean Avenue at Ivan’s behest. Apparently he is a closet Yellowcard fan. I will not throw stones. There are still discussions going on as to what we will name this new city. Mark Price wants to name it New BEEFtown in honor of how he learned to shoot a jumper. Van Exel wants to name it after Stacey Dash in some way because apparently she had a profound affect on him. When I told him that she didn’t have it like that anymore he looked at me with knowing eyes.

"Trust me," he said, “‘Fore all this happened, there wasn’t a thing she was Clueless about."

I do not argue with him.

Ivan wants to name it after his favorite movie: Angels In The Outfield.

In what capacity, I ask him. He does not know. He is only amazed that the kid from that movie wound up being in 500 Days of Summer. Again, me and Ivan will grow to be good friends. I see that clearly.

I want to name it Los Rossville in honor of the great poet who provided me with untold amounts of strength on my journey to the sea. 

Life is good now. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with Beyonce. Her love’s gonna have me lookin so crazy, Diary.  The life I lead from here on out will be full. Full like The Peake was come playoff time. Full like the prophet’s was.

I’m getting money so you’ll never hear me talking petty
Tatted on my stomach, rich forever, Makaveli
Fifty million, hundred million, it’s accumulating

That is me now, Diary. I’ll be getting money. I’ll be rich forever. I might even get a tattoo on my stomach. I’ve thought on it for awhile now. I think it will read, “This boy done met the world”. Because I have, Diary. I have met the world and its end head on and I, like my bride to be, am a survivor. I will keep on survivin’. 

Lives are stories. Stories have chapters. I suppose this chapter is over. Thank you for listening, Diary.

I finally found my sunset. This one reminds of the Oklahoma ones I grew accustomed to the last few years. Spread out across the horizon, stretching a few infinities each direction. Every color you see a mixture. Pink and orange and purple. Fading in and out of one another like Kevin used to when I’d pin down for him and his man went topside off the screen.

It’s a good sunset.

I’ll ride off into it now.

Stay Classy

      

Keep the simple splashy.

I watched Anchorman the week it came out.

My Dad took me. I’d been at our church’s youth camp soaking in ultimate frisbee, tye-dye T-shirts, and songs with hand motions. We’d arrived back at the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Muskogee, OK and Dad was waiting. I dumped by bag full of dirties into the back seat of his truck and he asked me if I wanted to go see Anchorman.

More than anything in the universe I did.

I’d became a huge Will Ferrel fan over the past few years due to my having finally started watching Saturday Night Live and him doing George W Bush so perfectly. I considered myself a pretty massive fan, and I’d been anticipating this movie for some time. My parents normally didn’t take me to a lot of movies that didn’t have PG ratings, so this was a big deal, Dad asking me to go. I could not have possibly been more excited.

It’s summertime in Oklahoma and it is hot. The heat bear hugs you then puts a fake bear suit on you then breathes hot bear breathe in your face all the day long. We drive across the 15 minutes from the church to the theater across town, The Carmike 6.

There’s two movie theaters in Muskogee. One is in the mall. The Dickinson Arrowhead Mall 10. Presently, The Dick (Nobody ever called it that but we should’ve) is super nice for being in a mall and being in Muskogee. That’s not a knock on Muskogee. I love Muskogee. I just mean this place isn’t so nice it had an IMAX screen or something. You know? It’s nice. Not IMAX nice. Just nice nice. And nice nice is good.

It’s got 10 theaters now and two of them have stadium seating. The chairs recline a little and every seat has an accompanying cup holder and there is no pain there and the aisles are paved with gold and you hear angels singing while you wait for the movie to start.

The other theater in town, not so much with all that. It’s the Carmike 6. Some people who were not too inventive but pretty straightforward decided to call it Suckmike. Not too many fought them on the validity of that nickname because, frankly, it was extraordinarily appropriate and completely worthy of a nickname that both sucks AND points out that the place sucks. That’s how bad it was. It didn’t deserve a good nickname.

And so it was, that we went to the Suckmike to watch Sir William Ferrel in what is still far and away his most iconic role: Ron Burgundy.

We park in the parking lot of the Suckmike and get out and walk up to the window and pay for our tickets with cash. This isn’t a big deal, it just allows me to tell you that the place didn’t have a credit card machine. It was 2004, and the place didn’t have a credit card machine. This prompted everyone that didn’t frequent the theater to let out a resounding, “For real?” anytime they tried to pay with one.

 But whatever. We get our tickets from the guy in the box office that hates himself and hates everyone else. Then we go to the front door of the theater that, once opened, leads into the lobby/concessions area.

We open the door and we are slapped across the face by two of the greatest creations in human history. One of those is air conditioning. The other is movie popcorn.

My Dad was and is lifelong supporter of movie popcorn and he has instilled those values in me and I will pass them along to my son or daughter or robot if that’s where we are by the time I’m married. We get a large popcorn because we’re American and you get free refills and a couple drinks. My Dad gives the money to the concession worker who hates himself and hates everyone else who then gives him his change.

I’m the kid and I’m selfish so I grab the big bucket of popcorn and hold it in my arm, half hugging it because I love it and never want to let it go. Then I do the thing where you can’t wait to start eating your popcorn so you start grabbing and eating kernels the way a frog eats flies.

We walk from the end of the concessions area where we grab our straws to the ticket taker. We hand out tickets to the ticket taker who hates himself and hates everyone else. He rips them and hands them back to us and mumbles something about Theater 4 being to our left and then combs more hair over his eyes because life’s just too hard sometimes.

We walk into the theater and go to the back row. It is the best row at this theater because it’s so small and you usually don’t have to get up to let people leave to go to the bathroom or get a drink or anything dumb like that. We have a rule that, attendance numbers willing, we put a seat in between the two of us. That seat is for the bucket of popcorn.

We sit in the half light and wait for the movie to start while Dad asks me how church camp was. I tell him it was good and talk about how excited I am to eat real food again. I tell him about how I may not be as athletic as I think I am because I couldn’t water-ski. The Coburns had me out on their boat for practically all afternoon, I tell him, and I still couldn’t. He laughed. We talk about what I missed in the wide world of sports and we do our different impressions of Will Ferrel impersonating George W. Bush. We talk about how you can never have too much cowbell. We talk about the camp itself and did I learn anything and I tell him about a Prayer Tunnel we all did that’s not near as weird as it sounds and how nice it was to have nice people say nice things about you and pray that nice things would happen for and to you. We talked about a lot of unimportant stuff and some important stuff. We just hung out like friends. Cept this friend just happened to also be my Dad.

We realize the popcorn is almost empty already because we are savages, savages, barely even human, and Dad gets up to get a refill because you gotta be fully loaded when the movie starts.

He comes back with that full bucket of dreams just as the lights fade down and the theater gets filled with emerald green light as previews begin. He sits it in the chair in between the two of us and we start to exert our dominance over it once more.

The movie starts and I’m entranced and never not laughing. This culminates in me rubbing elbows with the sticky Suckmike floors because Will Ferrel said that San Diego in German translates to ‘whale’s vagina’ and I thought it was so funny I couldn’t sit properly and laughed and convulsed so much I wound up in the floor. I was crying. The kind of laughter you’re tired from when it leaves you.

You’ve probably seen the movie if you don’t suck a whole bunch, so I won’t go into the details of how amazing it is and about how Ferrel could live for a thousand years and never again do a character that perfect for him. I could tell you about how that movie and The Best of Will Ferrel Vol. 1 defined my high school sense of humor and how every time me and my friends couldn’t figure out something to do at night we just popped one of those DVD’s in and we were all set. We could talk about how we love poetry, and a glass of scotch, and, of course, our friend Baxter here.

I love that movie, and my love for it is only amplified because of how great an experience it was watching it for the first time. I got to see it with my Dad.

That was pretty cool. 

The Post-Apocalyptic Diary Of Nick Collison (Part Four)

The wolves are dead. I killed the last of them last night. 

Then I sang the chorus of Kanye’s Dark Fantasy over them. 

Then I slept.

Then, I had a dream.

Then, within that dream, Shawn Kemp came and spoke to me.

He told me that, although he WAS the Reign Man, I am now. I awoke and went to grab you, Diary. I had to tell you because you are all I know.

Shawn told me the ocean I seek is five miles west of my current location. My camp, for the moment, is set at the base of a hill in what used to be called California.

Shawn and I spoke of his old days in Seattle and he said he harbored no ill will towards me or my old Thunder teammates. He spoke with Gary and Detlef in Heaven and they told him the same. The last time I saw Detlef was on Parks and Recreation. I had always hoped to be with him and Roy as a part of Entertainment 720’s NBA clientele. Jean Ralphio and Tom did bring me joy. Tom showed me just how important it is to treat yoself, and although I live in a wasteland, I try to heed his words daily. Alas, me and the show, it was not meant to be.

Oh, Diary. I am rambling my wants at you. I’ll get back to it.

Even Xavier McDaniel was at peace with the team having moved, and he is at peace with nothing. All these former Sonics offering up their blessings! What a weight lifted, Diary.

I must confess, though, I did try to pry when I spoke with Shawn. The stories of his sexual exploits stretched far as Manute’s arms and as wide as Oliver Miller’s hips throughout the league. I came around well after his playing days were over and still the stories numbered in the trillions it seemed.

Every time I asked him about his dalliances, though, he simply lifted his hand and said, “My reign is over. It is now your turn.”

Perhaps that means I will find women soon. One can pray, Diary. Rihanna, where have you gone? Can we find love in this hopeless place? 

If the ocean is where he says it is, and I do believe him, I should be there by tomorrow.

Not a moment too soon either, Diary. I am wearing down like Ewing’s knees and the world is crumbling with me.

The sky is so grey it looks dead. Like the patch in Rasheed’s hair.

I am more tired than I’ve ever been. As tired as “Hand Down, Man Down” was during Mark Jackson’s reign of terror as a NBA broadcaster.

It is a good thing that nobody else is around for I am more irritable than Pop fielding a question from Sager.

I imagine I have one more entry to give to you, Diary, before we are done. I may die. I may find people and no longer need the companionship your pages offer. But mostly, you are coming to an end, Diary. That is why we must stop soon. Because you will stop soon. You have very few pages left.

I treat your moleskinned self as C.S. Lewis treated his in A Grief Observed. Once the pages run out, the story, my story, is over. There is no need to prolong it.

It is important to know when it is time to retire from writing, just as it is important to know when to retire from basketball. Knowing when you are done, that is a great skill to have. Not all people have it.

Just look at Shaq.

The ocean is now what the Larry O’Brien trophy used to be. I take nothing for granted, though. I felt I was close to the trophy, and then the world was ripped from my hands by the event. There are no guarantees.

I will lay on this world a press that Nolan Richardson would gush over. 

I have one more day till I reach the sea.

Till then, I leave you with the prophet Rozay.

Boss, it’s what I does 

get money everyday, everyday I does 

That Benz, is how I ride 

Black flag on the left, two hoes and ride 

-Nick Collison

Valentine Pressure

The N’SYNC is playing and Timberlake is helping all us scared, little middle school boys find the right words to say to these middle school girls that will get them out of their gaggle and into our arms.


It’s February 2001 in Oklahoma and anyone who’s anyone in Fort Gibson is at the Middle School Valentine’s Day Dance. It was held in the Old Gym on campus. The bleachers have been pushed in and the painted tigers on the walls roar. The floor was the kind of hard rubber you see in old elementary PE rooms and it was about to be sliced and diced by hormones.

It’s a meat market. Dripping with Hollister and Abercrombie and American Eagle. The girls wore whatever their mothers let them get away with and the guys tried to sneak cologne and wear collared shirts without wrinkles. Hair spiked and gelled up so much it could pierce skin. Rhino horns on top of guys’ heads. Complete silliness.

I’m in the 7th grade and known enough to where these events aren’t complete disasters for me. I can find a cute girl to dance with every slow song and I got my boys to talk with when we’re acting too cool to dance during fast songs.

None of us knew how to handle these things, though. Guys and girls. Both. You just fake it and hope that, somehow, nobody realizes you’re a poser.

So I just go to this gym and our algebra teacher plays songs I’ve only heard via secret MTV watching while my parents are in the other room? And all the while there are girls there that I’m supposed to dance with? What’s more, I have to do the asking?

But, wait a minute, world. I’m sorta kinda a gigantic lame and terrified to the point of paralysis. You sure about all that? I can’t just chill at the house and hang out with Corey and Shawn and Topanga? I don’t care if EVERYONE is going to be there. The 8th graders are going to be there and they intimidate me and I don’t really want to deal with all that.

Fine, world. Fine. I’ll go, but I’m gonna eat at least four Snickers.

The dance is a show. There should be television programs surrounding these things. Everybody is discovering boners for the first time and nobody knows how on earth they’re supposed to dance when fast songs come on. There’s, like, two guys in the whole building who know what they’re doing and even they don’t really know how to dance with a girl.

One of them is some dude a year older than me named Ryan. He wore baggy knock off brand Jnco-ish style jeans, t-shirts whose graphics have graphics, a beanie, and all white Reebok Classics. He would pretty much wait till Ginuwine’s Pony came on, shut the dance floor down for around three minutes while everyone lost their minds, then peace out and leave because he was entirely too good for what was about to occur.

For the rest of us rhythmically challenged folk, basically, a fast song comes on and just about instantly a gigantic circle forms and people start clapping and bouncing and looking around to see who has nuts enough to step into the middle and throw down. One funny guy will go in there and dance like a girl and get the good kind of laughs. Then everyone looks around for a minute until a guy tries to dance for serious. If he’s good, whoa cool. If he’s bad, the bad kind of laughter erupts from our bellies and mark it down he’s having a bad rest of the night.

So, after a bit, the circle becomes a deformed circle. Then it’s an oval. Then it’s a bunch of people standing around looking lost but trying to look found. Girls wind up dancing with girls and guys wind up standing and making fun of each other. Every so often a guy will dance with a girl and they’ll dance the only way anyone knows how to fast dance when you’re that age: girl’s butt on the dude’s crotch, each of them bouncing looking strange and confused. Even still, everyone jealous they had the guts to try it.

The atmosphere is a remixed laser tag building. A disco ball and sometimes a strobe light and sometimes a fog machine. Always sweat. So much sweat. Some dudes overcompensating with cologne because they ran out of deodorant. Girls take off their outer shirt to reveal some Limited Two halter top number their mom would slap them for wearing by its lonesome. It’s an attack on the senses. The air is dripping with Colgate toothpaste and Axe and whatever smell goods they sell for girls at Claire’s at Arrowhead Mall in Muskogee.

Mr. Wicks, the Algebra teacher who was drafted as a DJ because he was young, knew computers, and has a low, Isaac Hayes voice, is at a table under the south basketball goal on the 1’s and 2’s.

Tangent: Wicks was such a great guy. One of those teachers that was cool AND he cared. I was in his pre-Algebra class in the 7th grade and his Algebra class in the 8th grade. Several of us had him consecutive years. We weren’t a handful any more than other junior high kids would be and we had smart kids that tried on their homework so he took a liking to us. On our last day of 8th grade, Wicks gave us a speech about doing the right things and being people that you’d be proud to know. Be good friends, he said. Be kind to each other. Don’t get into high school and lose sight of yourselves. And yea, he got misty as he said it. So what? Only teacher I ever had that gave a talk like that.

He’s doing well, though. He plays songs we know. He sticks to the Now That’s What I Call Music! albums and stuff you’d see on Saturday mornings on VH1 if you watched their Top 20 countdown show. He tells you when a slow song’s coming so that you can make your move toward the girl you haven’t danced with just yet. Good looking out, Mr. Wicks.

But yea. Tonight’s the Valentine’s Dance and that means that everything is turned up 10 degrees from normal. Some kids came TOGETHER. On dates. I mean, come on.

So, Timberlake is stealing from Alabama and telling the ladies in the room that God must have spent a little more time on them, and I’m dancing with Erika because we’re friends.

Erika is my friend and she’s cute and she’s always been nice to me so it is what it is. JC, Chris, Joey, Lance, and Justin get through with the “On you, on you, on youuuuuu” and the song’s over and it’s on to the next one. Blink comes on and the place goes nuts. Legitimately the only song the whole night everyone participates in. That is to say that everyone stands up and mashes together and mini-moshes to All The Small Things. That song is over and I’m tired so I sit the next couple plays out. I’m standing their, minding my own, then Jill strolls up. Jill is a cheerleader and we’re friends so whatever. She asks if I like Erika. I say no I do not. She says, oh, cuz she likes you. I’m like, oh, well, cool, but I don’t want a girlfriend. Too much hassle.

She departs and fades into a mass of ponytails and bell bottom jeans, as were the ladies’ throwback want at  that time. I, of course, report the news to my boy Mitch because that’s what you do. He’s like, dude, just go out with her, you’ll get a Valentines present. VALID POINT, MITCHELL. I’m still skeptical, though. Nah, man, I say. I don’t want to deal with that.

Jill comes back. This time she brought reinforcements. It’s Abby. Pint sized and full of life and Mountain Dew and Sour Straws and cuss words and she’s got an OPINION. She’s also my friend, though, so we’re cool.

She really likes you, Tyler.
That’s all well and good, I say, but I’m not really feeling it.
Why not, they ask.

That’s a good question and one I didn’t anticipate because I’m an idiot and I have to scramble.

I put my hands on my hips and look at the sky and I’m like, come on, where’s my Mom at with the suburban and some Sonic and a ride home.

They keep pressing.

I just don’t want to, I say.

That should be reason enough.

They whip around, ponytails flying like car flags, and disappear into the glob of girls whispering and pointing and smiling and laughing. Erika is in the eye of the female storm right now.

Again I talk to Mitch. Again he says to “just go out with her”. Apparently she’s “hot” so it’ll be cool. I still say no go.

Then, as if controlled my some modern day Moses, the Red Sea of middle school girls parts and from the shadows emerges Erika. She’s got me in her sights and she is coming right at me. Straight shot. I don’t know what to do or where to go so I freeze. I’m a goner. The girls pitter-patter along behind her, moving as a mass. There is no difference between them and krill at this point.

She strolls up to me. Puts her hands on her hips. Brushes a brunette strand of hair behind her right ear. Then asks me why I won’t go out with her.

Can’t believe she asked me in person. So adult of her.

I tell her I don’t want a girlfriend. She says she’d be a great one. I say that, while I’m sure that’s the case, the answer is still no. She keeps pushing. Keeps coming. Soon a mini crowd has gathered because when someone is getting publicly asked out, and then that someone is saying no, middle schoolers eat that stuff up like you just came from playing outside and mom made bagel bites.

Mitch comes in singing the same note he’s been singing.

I feel like every eye is on me now and it genuinely seems that, if I say no again, I’m going to look like a massive dick. ALL of her friends and non friends are watching and ALL of my friends and non friends are watching. Everyone is watching. My face is the color of the red crate paper hearts that line the gym walls.

Her doing something like this at a middle school dance was basically tossing chum into a shark tank.

I smell drama.
I taste drama.
Oh, that’s delicious.
I want more.

This is the mental state of every middle schooler ever.

Something interesting is happening and now I’m not bored and I’m not leaving till it resolves itself.

Finally Mitch remixes it and quotes Phil Knight or someone who works for Phil Knight.

"Come on, dude," he says, "Just do it."

I look at her. She looks so full of hope. Not even phased by the countless rejections. I can’t believe it. It’s kind of remarkable.

I agree to the relationship.

All due respect to Kendrick Lamar, THAT is the art of peer pressure.


The Post-Apocalyptic Diary Of Nick Collison (Part Three)

Rain is falling now. I am wet as Kevin’s jumper. The wolves still scream like Pau did when he was “fouled”.

I came upon a mirror today in an old house I passed by. I look rough. Rough as an Oklahoma highway. Like if you took what I-40 looks and feels like under construction and made it a face. Like George Muresan and Vlade Divac’s faces had a baby.

My hair looks like I had help with it from Drew Gooden. My Jayhawk brethren. How his grooming decisions did confuse me.

I found a working clock inside an old gas station as I scavenged this morning. It had the date on it. Today is October 31st. Happy Halloween, Diary.

What shall I dress up as?

What’s that, Diary?

A bum?

Oh, Diary, but where will I find a Sasha Vujacic costume on such short notice?

Ahh. Jokes are good. That one was bad. But jokes are good.

I remember the old days of trick or treating. Walking about Orange City dressed as Corey Matthews or Casey Jones or the Red Power Ranger. Things were simpler then.

It was my birthday five days ago. I did not know that. If memory serves me, which it may not, I spent it under the tarp on the side of the road as the rain fell. Happy belated Birthday to me.

I came upon a mountain pond two nights ago. I camped there. I lit a fire and pounded out a beat with sticks on empty bean cans and kept the trees company, singing to them my own version of Neil Young’s Helpless as the flames flung shadows on the forest floor. I sing because I need to and sometimes I do feel helpless.

It is odd to think, Diary, but a short time ago I was writing a blog for GQ. Me and Jimmy Goldstein, The Model Whisperer, penned some of the same pages.

Now I write for the wind.

My mind wanders and so do I. I regret not having tried things. I think about if I could have done more. I should have tried harder to get things moving on my screenplay for Kazaam 2: The Collison Collision, starring myself. Perhaps if destiny leads me to the ocean and there are others there I could produce it as a play.

Let me dream, Diary.

I am all-in these days, Diary. There can be no tiptoeing. I do everything all the way. There are no half measures. Not in Walter White’s Albuquerque and not in this empty world. You go full or you don’t go at all.

I am a Pontic Aztec and I run into the wolves that are the dealers. But I have no Jesse. I am alone. So I tell myself to run.

I run to the ocean. There is salt in the air around me and I know I am close and that is good. Sonic Happy Hour good.

I invite the wolves to give chase. Come at me, bros.

Still in the streets.

Strapped with them thangs.

She in love with the G.

So she tatted my name.

I’m the biggest boss that you seen thus far.

And Diary…I am the danger.

-Nick Collison

*Again, this ain’t real. Part 1 if you’re inclined and bored: http://drawllin.tumblr.com/post/33760702696/nickcollisonapocalypse

Part 2 if you’re inclined and super bored: http://drawllin.tumblr.com/post/34152089308/the-post-apocalyptic-diary-of-nick-collison-part-two 

Founding Fathers : A Pick Up Game (The First Half)

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.

George Washington
Thomas Jefferson
John Adams
James Madison
Benjamin Franklin
Alexander Hamilton.

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.

Everyone snickers.

“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

Vs

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.”

Play resumes.

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.

The Post-Apocalyptic Diary Of Nick Collison (Part Two)

I jolt awake and I am sweating like Ostertag. It pours from me as Russ poured in points on Raymond Felton.

I am in a cave and the fire is going and the walls are screaming at me. The only thing louder in my mind and memory is Loud City.

I think I am in Nebraska, but I cannot be sure.

I sit up and wrap the blue tarp around me in hopes that I can get warm. I know that I cannot. I am not Vinnie Johnson.

I think on the season and what it might have been. I was planning on telling Mike Tirico that no one actually calls it Oak City. It is Oklahoma City or it is OKC. There is nothing else. Alas, he is gone and unable to hear my plea. So is Hubie. For this I truly ache.

I stand and walk to the mouth of the cave. God has removed the clouds for tonight. The stars number so many and shine so bright it is as if there is a Rock ‘N Jock basketball game in the sky.

I see the past now.

There goes a N’SYNC era Justin Timberlake. Look at that hair.

And there, running without thought or worry of what will happen to his career, is Dean Cain. It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

Ahhh. I miss laughter.

I fear I am losing it. I am stuck in the past because I cannot envision a future wherein things are better than they were before the event.

My dream tonight was a memory. I was back in Lawrence and in Phog-Allen and we were playing Texas and I was dominating. TJ Ford’s antics were not enough. I ended the game with 24 points and 23 rebounds and a standing ovation from Dick Vitale.

The ovations do not come anymore.

A breeze enters the cave. The pages of my moleskin flop back and forth like Manu and Tony and a chill runs throughout me.

I hear the howl of the wolves from down the mountain. I injured the pack leader two nights ago. He barreled into me, charging, and I did what I do. He cannot use his front right paw now. That championship is as sweet as one from the Northwest Division.

Those are no more now, though. The world and the league and all those in it are gone and it is me and the wolves and the wind. This cave cannot be home for long.

They know I am here.

They will be coming with all the fury of Raymond Felton chasing a cheeseburger. Oh, Diary. Forgive my unnecessary resentment, but I did not like him.

I press on towards the water in hopes that I might find life. Or, better still, love. How I want a woman. Is Rachel McAdams still alive?

My iPod has battery now. I found a working outlet in a 7-Eleven a few sunsets ago. I do not know how electricity still exists in certain places, I only thank God that it does. The prophet Ross eggs me on.

Sometimes sixteen bars ain’t enough.

I don’t know that I have sixteen days if I do not find food soon.

I miss Carl’s Jr. The Western Bacon Cheeseburger. It roared. I miss The Wedge and Ted’s Cafe Escondido and Victoria’s and Mexico Joe’s and all the rest.

I miss Hideaway Pizza. The Little Kahuna was my all.

There has been one great lift that has happened in these recent days. I came upon a house. Small and wooden and, I thought, barren. I searched the house and found nothing. Room after room, clean and dirty all at once. My hope left me…then I saw the chest.

A small toy chest. A teddy bear on the front of it. It holds a red balloon in its hand. The chest is locked. I kick at the padlock. It does not give. I ready my Red Wings for another go. I lift my leg and bring it down with all the force of one of Serge’s dunks and the lock gives and breaks and the chest springs open like Kevin after one of my down screens. I look down into the chest and it is a haven of the past. I see a Talk Boy and a Walkman and a Yack Back and Gack and a DVD of the first Season of Salute Your Shorts and a poster of Summer Sanders (I kept that and it hangs on the wall of this cave as I write) and…

My eyes stop. I see a jersey. I see the familiar turquoise. I see the number 50. I lift the uniform from the chest and rub my hand over the word “Vancouver”. I turn the jersey over to look at the back.

A lump hits my throat and my nostrils flare and my eyes fill up with tears and I see his name.

Reeves.

It is my hero.

I am full of joy and I hurry and put the jersey on. This is my Christmas.

If it is my destiny to survive, I will find the Smithsonian and place my Bryant Reeves jersey within its walls. That is where it belongs.

I must go now. The sun rises and it paints the sky pink and I must start moving before the wolves do.

I think of Sir Rozay once more. His chorus siren, Nicki Minaj, tells me I am the boss and I agree and I am stronger for it.

I must do what he does: Still runnin’ the streets cause everyday I’m hustlin’.

The day has begun. I close these pages and sit down my pen.

Time to hustle.

-Nick Collison

*Nick Collison didn’t write this or have any involvement in it. He’s a cool dude who tweeted that this was creative. Don’t want him to get in trouble for a silly tumblr write up. Collison is awesome and you’re awesome for reading it. If you liked Part 2 and want to read Part 1, you can do that right here : http://drawllin.tumblr.com/post/33760702696/nickcollisonapocalypse

Face Painter

       

Seinfeld knows what he’s doing. Face painting is weird.


I dressed as Troy Aikman for Halloween for five straight years. Five. Then I dressed as Deion Sanders. I had a dew rag that said “Jesus” on it and I wore it and all who encountered me envied me. I high stepped into every room I walked in that year. It was prime time on the night of October 31st.

Then I dressed as Troy again.

Then…

Well, then I went as an OU Fanatic.

Hey, what does a person wear if they go as an OU Fanatic, asks you. First off, what a loser you are that you don’t already know. Geez. This guy. It’s so easy. Second, I’m glad you asked. Sorry about all that loser stuff. I didn’t mean it. Let’s be friends again.

Essentially, they wear an OU football jersey, OU shorts, and an OU hat. They grab a red and white combo pom pom from their little sister’s closet and stick it under the hat so it looks like it’s their hair. They wear a long sleeved OU shirt with the word “Sooners” running down the sleeves. They wear super tall OU socks, and they paint their face. They paint one side red with a white “OU” and they paint the other side white with a red “OU”.

Really, they look like the smartest, most decent human being alive.

But looks can be deceiving. And book covers can lie. And it’s the inner beauty that counts. And all those things that are important that we learn so we don’t just date a girl because she looks fantastic in tight workout pants.

Back to my dope ‘stume.

You see, the face paint, that was a bad idea. I had my mom do it and she spent forever on it because she loves me and it really did look good. But the thing is, it didn’t feel good. It was super itchy and, when something is itchy, you want to scratch it. But when that something is crucial to the integrity of the greatest ‘stume ever, then you can’t scratch it. You got to let the itch ride until nature takes care of it.

I was a child and a baby and I felt like my face was was getting special treatment at Guantanamo. I went up to my mom at our church’s Fabulous Fun Fall Festival (A big event in the gym at our church where they set up booth after booth of games that gave out candy as prizes) and I told her, “Mom, this itches, can I wash it off?”


My mom proceeded to tell me she’d spent a lot of time on that and she wasn’t about to just have me wash it off as soon as we got to the event she painted it for.

"You’re gonna keep that on," she said. Completely fair.

She slaved over my face for this costume. She wasn’t going to have it be all for not.

See, I follow the rules usually. I like watching conflict, but I’m really not a huge fan of being an integral part of it. I’ll get into a verbal tiff with someone every now and again, but I usually wind up just wanting everything to be cool and everyone to be chill and like each other and have everyone all over the world join hands, start a love train, and film a Coca-Cola commercial together. I hate trouble and causing trouble and I want everyone to like everyone and get along and have there be no discontent at all. Ever. E-L-E. Jackie Moon was a prophet.

So, despite the fact that my face felt like it had rolled around in grass for six hours, I kept the paint on there. I hated it, but I did it. Then, at the end of the night, after I’d accumulated a trick or treat bucket with enough candy to last me through January, I washed it off.

*Heaven sounds and angels singing Hallelujah and I’m floating like I just found my happy thought and Tootles never lost his marbles and every day of my life I get to get in a food fight like the Lost Boys had in Hook*

When the paint was off, my face felt the way you feel when you get out of your snow clothes and you put on some dry, warm sweats and you sit by a fire and someone hands you a piece of Crazy Bread and tells you to be quiet because Up is coming on. It felt incredible.

I have not painted my face since then. It’s fine to “support the team” and it’s fine if you’re a kid and that’s your thing and you’re at the zoo or a carnival or any event where you’d have a buddy who’s hand you had to hold from place to place so nobody got lost.

I know, okay. I know. Some people like it. John Randall and Eli Cash and Puddy and probably a host of other relatively likable people get a kick out of it. 

But as for me and my house? No more of that. 

Watching Michael Jordan

        

Come on and slam, even if you don’t want to jam.


It was 1998 and Michael Jordan was done after this year (Lies. Lies. Lies. Oh. Lies. Black Keys songs). It was his farewell tour and he was singing his swan song all over the league. I was 10 years old, and Jordan was not human to me. He was an idea. A force forged in sports heaven. He could fly. That was not opinion. That was fact. He could stretch really far. Like, SUPER far. I watched Space Jam. So don’t tell me he couldn’t. Cuz he could. He also got kissed real hard by Daffy Duck, which is kind of weird, but whatever, it was the 90’s.

Jordan did things that caused spasm reactions. Stuff that made your body jolt like you were waking up from a dream in which you were falling. Stuff that made you make a face like you smelled something really bad. Plays that made those white guys in their chunky 90’s Cosby sweaters with multi-colored stripes and swirls do their own, grounded up and unders while standing in front of their seats.

Gravity is a jerk to most of us. Jordan tamed it.

My Uncle Jeff lived in Houston. He was a lawyer there. He had season tickets to Rockets and Astros games. One incredible weekend he invited myself and my Dad to come watch an Astros game in the afternoon, and a Rockets game that night. The Astros would be playing the Rockies. The Rockets would be playing the Bulls.

…Tire screech sounds. Car slams into a telephone pole and the airbag deploys and there is smoke coming from the hood and BBMack plays in the background as I hear sirens approaching. A little boy rides up on a bike and says ‘Gee wiz mister, you alright?’ I look like Anton Chigurh…

Wait. THE Bulls. The ones with Rodman, Pippen, and Jordan? I’m a basketball playing kid that grew up in the 90’s in a part of the country that had no team I was geographically obligated to be a fan of. That means that you bet the farm I’m a HUGE Bulls fan at this time. And my fan hood, like most of the rest of the country’s, was predicated entirely on the fact that the god-man who wore the number 23 on his jersey played for them.

Please note: I’ve since read the Jordan Rules and a few other books that don’t really paint Jordan as the Patron Saint of Kindness. I know the trumors about him and his gambling and how he treated his teammates and all that. I know he punched Steve Kerr in the face. I know he wears acid wash jeans. He was, by quite a few accounts, a jerk. That sucks. But, you know, when you’re a kid, you don’t know that stuff. You know he’s amazing at playing a thing you want to be amazing at playing. This isn’t about Michael Jordan the person, though, because who am I to throw stones? I really wanted to frost the tips of my hair once and threw a fit because my Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me get them. I have no room to talk.

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the greatest basketball player in the history of human (and alien) existence.

We get down to Houston and we go to the Astros game. I’m not going to talk about that game much because I don’t remember much of it. I remember my Dad and Uncle talking about how incredible the Astrodome used to be. I remember thinking it was amazing the Bad News Bears were able to sell a game out there as a bunch of Little Leaguers. I remember three drunk ‘Stros fans in front of me shouting the words “Darryl” at the top of their lungs all game.

Daaaaaaaaaaaarrrryyyyylllllll

They were shouting at Darryl Kile who I came to know later as the pitcher who started for the NL All Stars on Ken Griffey Jr’s Major League Baseball for Nintendo 64. You had one nice Super Fastball, Darryl. Hit the Z and the B at the same time and watch hitters fan the ballpark. Shouts out to that game.

We left that game early to beat traffic since it was a Rockies beat down and Jeff Bagwell was injured. I couldn’t see the infamous Bags in his batting stance, I was done with my pretzel and popcorn, and we all three had dates with His Airness that night. We had to done up.

Now, let me just say that, outfit wise, I was at a crossroads. I was in Houston. I was going to this game because of my Uncle who is a Houston fan. I had been given a Hakeem Olajuwon jersey by my Uncle for just such an occasion. As a young boy, I tried to be thoughtful. I did what I could to be a good nephew. I said thanks after presents and gave out some pretty dope high fives when requested. I even wore Harvard Law shirts because Uncle Jeff graduated from there and they made me feel smarter than I actually was. So, I thought it the decent to do to wear the Hakeem jersey.

…With my Jordan shirt underneath it.

We get to the arena and I am dragging my jaw on the floor. This place. You talk about big. Just so incredibly big. All I had to compare it to were the OU football games I’d been to. Don’t get me wrong, Owen Field is the greatest place in the history of places, but that was outdoors. This monstrosity, this thing was inside. It was a big, gigantic building that was built just so super athletic guys that did things on a basketball floor I could never dream of doing could play a game in front of a bunch of people.

So. Many. People.

I’d never been to a NBA arena before, much less a NBA game. I was stupefied. I really wanted to use the word “stupefied”. Thanks for letting me.

The Rockets were loaded with future Hall of Famers at the end of their relevancy. Barkley. Drexler. Hakeem.

The Bulls were trying to get that second 3-peat. Rodman. Pippen. Jordan.

I got to watch six Hall of Famers play basketball that day. Six. I had no idea how good I had it.

The game itself I don’t remember a ton about. I was ten and there was so much going on in that building and in my own head because of what I was getting to do that day that it’s really a wonder I didn’t pass out or go into a seizure.

I remember me and my Dad sat behind the goal closest to the Rockets bench. I remember there was a dude right across the aisle who was decked out in Jordan gear. Literally, he wore a Jordan sweatsuit and a Jordan hat and a pair of Jordan IV’s. Looked like type of ChillWhiteHomey that would wear Kangol because “If LL Cool J can do it then why can’t I?”. I mean that as an insult. He spent the majority of the game going to town on some nachos when he wasn’t shouting “It’s over” every time the Bulls scored. When he clapped, because of the nachos, he would slap his chest with one hand. He was also wearing glasses. Basically, he was B-Rad from Malibu’s Most Wanted. I also think I remember having some ice cream. It wasn’t Dip-N-Dots, though, so let’s all just relax.

That’s about it. I remember Jordan had one up and under on the goal closest to us. That’s it, though. No more amazing plays. Nothing crazy memorable. No cool shrugs after six first half threes or free throw line dunks or shutting his eyes while he shot a free throw or placing Patrick Ewing in a poster or helping Bryon Russell take a seat on a Salt Lake City floor while he redefined iconic.

The main thing I remember is the feeling I had. The feeling that I was watching something that mattered. I got an opportunity to see someone who is considered the absolute greatest at something do that thing they were considered the absolute greatest at. I got to watch Michael Jordan play basketball that day. By the end of the game, one which the Bulls handed the Rockets a fairly convincing L, I had my Hakeem jersey off and was popping my Jordan shirt every chance I got. I did what Three Six Mafia would do years later. I popped my collar. I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s hard out here for a Jordan fan. The G.O.A.T. was out there putting in work. I had to pay homage.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how polite you want to be. When it’s time to bow down at the throne of He Who Puts People In Posters, you don’t think. You just apologize to Hakeem, lay his jersey along the back of your chair, and turn your eyes to the floor so The Crowned King of Air can make a memory or twelve for you.

Driveway Lessons

You stay out of a man’s room while the Joe is playing…and you do not throw a basketball at your Dad’s head. No matter how pissed you are.


There is a moment in a son’s life where he can finally beat his father at basketball. He can finally play through the contact and hang with all the banging in the post and Mutumbo his shot into the street because you do not bring any of that weak floater trash inside this lane that is my home or else you’ll wind up with a wagging finger in your face.

This is not about that moment.

This is about the moments before it. The early teenage moments. The moments where the very idea of beating your father in basketball is as completely unbelievable as owning your very own pair of LA Gears, Cory and Topanga breaking up, and finding someone who doesn’t like movie popcorn.

My Dad is an awesome, great. Dad. He is the best. He also happened to be good at basketball. He was about 6’2” with a jumper that, once he got going, couldn’t really be stopped. Then, if his shot wasn’t falling, he’d take me down into the post and put me in the torture chamber. Lift fakes and up and unders and I was the David Robinson to his Dream Shake in the ‘95 Western Conference Finals. Just jumping and guessing and being made to look downright foolish.

I got older, though, and it got to where I was competitive. We would play to 11 by 1’s. I could beat him every now and again, but never two out of three. Couldn’t take the series. This wears on a boy. 

One day it got to be too much.

See, my Dad wasn’t going to let me win. When you were on the driveway court on Oakmont Avenue you had to earn it. No easy buckets. One summer evening, before dinner, we squared off. I forget the order of the victories, but I know that I had won one and he had won one. When the third game began, it was Rocky IV out there. I went to my go to fade away off a spin move jumpers and he was hitting his 17 footers with extreme prejudice. Dad had his mid-range game on lock.

Billy Dan Parker had a true old-man game. That is a compliment. Patient. Subtle. Crafty. Wise. On the court he was like Shadow from Homeward Bound, if Shadow was an optometrist and had a wife and three kids. He used the angles the court and defense provided him. To watch him play in church league was to watch a rec-league savant. The guy had a clay game. Just completely adaptable to any situation. He could become anything. You put a small guy on him, he took him down into the post and big boy-ed him till they switched a big man on him. Then, you put a big guy on him, he’d go right around them. Billy goes hard in the paint.

We went blow for blow throughout the game until it was 10 to 10. You had to win by two. I had the ball. Went to the rack because screw a jump shot. Contested lay up. I miss. Make a shot, Tyler. 

Dad gets the rebound. Dribbles out to the top to take it back. Catches me napping, thinking about this miss. Rises. Fires. Net. Marv Albert “Yes”. Just right in my face. Mark Jackson would be pissed because hand down, man down, but Mark Jackson as an announcer is a joke so let’s move on to the next sentence.

I’m fuming and my Dad sees this. My Dad always felt it necessary to build up mental toughness when it came to basketball. He would needle any chance he got. Only this wasn’t needling. This was acupuncture.

"Uh-oooohhhhh", he said.

Subtle dig, Dad. I see what you’re doing.

I’m ready to start swinging.

He checks the ball up to me and I look at him and I look at the court and I give him a lift and he bites and I drive by him. Billy recovers quickly and he’s on my tail. As I’m about to go up I lose my balance and smoke the lay up off the backboard.

Two missed layups. I don’t deserve this game.

I tumble into the grass of our yard behind the goal. I look up. Dad has the ball and he’s staring at me. The shot did not hit rim. He does not have to take it out. I’m laying down in the grass collecting an itch, and he’s on his own two feet about two feet from the basket.

It’s over.

He shoots it and it goes in. I lay there and grab at the grass. He pulls the ball out of the net and puts it under his arm and he stares at me with a smile on his face.

I don’t like that. Like, not at all.

I say I want to play again and he says no and that mom cooked dinner and it’s time to go in. I say no and that I want to play again and ask him if he’s scared because he knows he’ll lose. He says it’s time to go in and I say that I almost beat him and this isn’t fair.

My Dad wanted to make me tougher. I see that now. Sometimes you lose. You deal with it and you move on and you stop whining. He was gonna hammer that point home.

"Hey, I think you played about as good as you could play, and, you know, I didn’t play that well, but maybe someday you’ll be able to beat me."

I’m steaming like a tea pot right now. He turns around to go get the trash can to drag it back behind the house.

I’m now holding the ball. I’m breathing hard and watching him walk. I’m getting angrier.

All of a sudden I’m not holding the ball anymore.

That’s because the ball is flying. The ball is flying because I Randy Johnson-ed that thing as hard as I could at my father. I threw it so hard I felt a tingling sharpness at the ends of my pointer and middle fingers.

It NAILED him in the back. The crash of the basketball against him echoed over the whole neighborhood. I was too mad to understand the ramifications of what I’d done. You don’t throw stuff at a Dad. My Dad wheeled around and eyed me. He pointed at me.

"You do not do that. Go inside the house right now."

Thing was, Dad was teaching me a lesson. He said those things and played that way so I could learn what it was to deal with adversity, to overcome someone talking some trash, and to figure out that it is necessary to lose with a little class. 

Took me hurling a ball at him to figure it out, but I learned what he was trying to teach me.

Just because you want to win really bad, doesn’t mean you will. So, you relax. Cooler heads prevail. Hot heads wind up dealing with L’s in their room.