I woke up this morning with a dream fresh in my mind. I was playing basketball one on one on a beaten down grass and dirt field with a beat up old ball shooting into a netless almost broken hoop, playing against a dread locked young black dude that kept calling me for traveling, carrying, sliding. I kept making beautiful shots but turning it back over to him, using the universal street ball rule of ‘respect the call no matter what’.

Flash back to six pm last night, I was jogging to the gym and stopped at the Lemon City courts to watch an ugly game of one on one between a tattooed up young black man with gold teeth and an over weight Hispanic teenager. It was a painful session of bricks and bad calls on both sides. The game eventually ended and of course I had to get in the mix with a quick ‘I got next’. I played the first game to 16 with Marco, the young black dude. His dread locked homeboy that I had been chatting with on the sidelines prior to my game stood and watched.
“I’m gonna murder him” Marco exclaimed to his boy.
I was pretty sure that he was talking about the basketball game, but thanks to the gunshot scars, gang tatoos and teardrops under his right eye, I wasn’t all THAT sure. I kept it cool, didn’t call obvious violations and walked it to a 16-3 win.
“You’re tired now, you ready to play again?” Marco asked lackadaisically.
“Okay, your ball, run it back.” I answered, feeling no tiredness.
My cardiovascular respiratory system is at such a high level these days that I rarely tire in a game of basketball, whether it’s game ten or 15. I hit walls, get the gut burn, but a little push and I’m alright. I breathe hard, I sweat hard, I hustle my ass off but fatigue is not a factor.
“Carry” Marco stated.
I didn’t argue.
“Your ball” I said, handing him the rock and getting ready to defend.
His pure jump shot warmed up and it was 11-10 after a few hits form behind the line for him.
“Offensive foul.”
I gave it back every time, D’d up and got the ball back, concentrated on midrange jump shot work with minimal opportunity for calls and It was 20-14, my advantage.
I thought I had won at 16-11, but after scoring that bucket Marco informed me that the game was to 21 and that I was getting tired. Okay, no problem.
So, at 20-14 I rebounded Marco’s missed 18 footer and took it back behind the arch and finished with a layup…I thought.
“Naw man, that ball went out of bounds” Marco stated matter of factly.
Even though the ball had gone nowhere near the base or side lines, I coolly handed it back and got into a defensive stance. He missed, I hit, it was over.
“I didn’t want to get my Timberlands dirty, ” Marco let me know after saying something in Haitian to the old man sitting under the tree drinking a beer watching us.
Of course you didn’t, who would? Why play hard when you can look good and have an excuse for your lack of effort.
“Good workout” Marco said.
“Good warm up” I replied and jogged down the street to the gym for some work…I thought.
Man, I never really go to they gym after three o’clock, as it starts to fill up and I can’t move around the way I like to. I figured it was Friday evening, people will not be in the sweat house. Wrong.
The gym I frequent is primarily a gay gym, which doesn’t bother me usually, but Friday nights I’m staying away from now on. I’ve never felt stares so hard in my life. I did three sets of pull ups and left. Too much. I now know how a woman feels in a straight gym. I know why all womens gyms exist. Dude’s don’t even know they are staring hard, it’s just a part of the ‘lead with the penis’ nature of man. Add in weights, vanity, grunting and sweat and you have a fairly uncomfortable environment for a lot of people.

Rewind again to Friday morning. Peter and I conducted the morning class at Morningside and had a nice life chat before heading our separate ways. I was planning on heading to the Garage and getting in my workout. As I drove out I noticed the basketball court was active with a decent game of one on one. I stopped and quickly paired up with Stan to take on the two guys that were playing ones. It was 87 degrees, sun blaring. Stan quickly tired, hands on his knees. I moved, rebounded, scored. It was 9-5, our lead. I drove the ball, went up and got NAILED on the head with what I thought was an elbow.
“What the F#%??!!” I spat.
I turned around and saw the guy that had went up to defend me holding his jaw, mute.
It was a hard hit, really hard.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Spit” his partner told him.
Oh shit, my skull broke this guys jaw, I thought to myself.
Another minute for Stan to catch his breath.
“Check ball,” I heard him say.
Okay, we’re back on.
The young man that was guarding me had neatly arranged cornrows, two diamond earrings in each ear and a powerfully built 5′ 10″ frame, six pack and all.
“You’re tired” he said to me.
I drove on him, stopped, let him jump, scored from the left.
Check ball.
I drove on him, stopped, let him jump, scored from the right.
A quick and painless finish.
“You got tired there, huh?” he said loud enough for his friends to hear at the picnic table on the other side of the fence.
“Let’s run some lines,” I suggested.
“Lines?” he asked.
“Free throw, touch, half court, touch, next free throw, touch, full court, all the way back,” I let him know.
We started and I was five steps ahead before half court. I ran backwards and asked him where he was. He skipped the free throw line on the other side and quit.
“Now you’re tired” he said.
“Ones,” I replied.
“Seven,” he said.
“Best of seven?” I asked, knowing that he meant seven points.
“Eleven” he answered.
I gave him the ball, let him drive past, pinned his layup to the backboard from behind and told him not to do that again.
When it was 10-0 my favor I let him drive past, told him to look out and watched as the lay up nearly rolled out of the hoop. A quick defensive stop and a midrange jumper and it was over.
“Now you’re tired,” he repeated.
“You wanna run a mile?” I asked.
“I’m pretty fast, I did 5:56 in high school” he said.
“Wow, that’s pretty fast”.
He was in trouble from the first step. I talked to him, telling him about my 50k race the previous weekend.
“All in one day?” he asked.
“Yes, all at once, how you feeling?” I rebutted.
“Fine, I used… to do…… this…. stuff in…. foot….ball all…. the…. time,” he huffed out.
The general rule of distance running is that if you can’t get four words out in a row you’re working pretty hard. I casually asked him if he was ready to go, barely into the blacktop park loop that was our race course.
“What?” he barely got out.
I took two steps and was gone. The next time I saw T.J. he was cutting through the grass circle of the loop, barely holding form, looking not so good. I finished and waited, got water…and waited.
Just when I was going to go check on him, he wobbled in and fell to his hands and knees.
“Okay, what’s next?” I asked.
“Wanna learn what a burpee is?” I inquired when he didn’t reply.
“You…got…me”. he squeaked out.
I gave him my card, invited him to come out and hear some music and told him to hold his tongue and let his performance dictate his mouth , not vice versa.
An interesting day.