PUMPING IRONY: An Aging Rookie

It’s often said of rookies who have graduated from the college hardwood to NBA arenas that they have to wait for the game to “slow down” before they can feel comfortable with a basketball in their hands.

The pros are simply bigger, stronger and quicker than anything these youngsters have experienced during their college years. The game is way more intense.

Rejoining my old b-ball buddies at the Anderson school gym the other night, I felt a little like one of those rookies — although I don’t think the game could slow down any more than it has over the past decade and still resemble basketball. Intense is not exactly the word I would use to describe what goes on here.

And I don’t think I have to tell you that is a good thing.

Some things haven’t changed: J.D. still runs the court like a madman, consistently scoring on fast-break layups; his brother, D.D. still has that little hook shot and a reliable mid-range jumper; and J.Y. (AKA Sleight-of-Hand) still can drive the lane for his patented scoop shot. It’s just all done now in slow-motion now; they’re all in their 50s, after all.

So I can’t say that my re-entry into “competitive” basketball was all that daunting. We did play full court, however, so there was plenty of running involved. And the opposing team featured a mix of twentysomethings along with a few greybeards, so there were flashes of athleticism to contend with. Plus, we didn’t have much in the way of reserves, so I ended up sitting down for only about 10 minutes during the two hours we had the court.

I think I did OK, though. Four of 12 from the field, a handful of assists, a handful of turnovers, an occasional rebound. But there was one moment early on that really made me wonder whether I belonged out there. I was posting up my defender down near the baseline, and when the pass came my way, I could hear my brain telling my arms to reach out to corral it, but my arms weren’t listening. The ball bounced harmlessly out of bounds and D.D. gave me a look that seemed to suggest that I save future indications of dementia for other venues.

At home later that night, I waited for my body to react to the punishment it had received. It didn’t take long. My knees, ankles and hips had begun a vigorous protest by the time I collapsed into bed, and for the next few days they continued to complain. Less than a week later, though, I felt pretty good (yoga and arnica work wonders) and a second round of hoops last week delivered less of a body blow than the first. My endurance has been fine, and the knees are holding up pretty well so far.

So I’m looking forward to getting after it again tomorrow night. I’m feeling less like a rookie already.

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