I don’t much care for basketball. I’m horrible at it myself and I’ve never really lost myself in the game watching others play it. I can respect what Michael Jordan accomplished, but it doesn’t interest me all that much. That said, I was moved by Lance Allred’s description of the early morning practices he would have with his coach in high school in his memoir, Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf, Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA.
Those mornings were the purest form of basketball I ever knew. Just me, [coach Kerry] Rupp, and a ball. No money, no boosters, no politics. It was the pure love and innocence of the game, when it was still a game for me. We both worked and sweated, our shoes squeaking and echoing out the gym and down the empty hallways. I’d pay to have those moments again, those moments of hard work and sacrifice when I knew not what to expect as far as what my future held, with no sense of entitlement, no reward or motive in sight other than just the pure love of the game. I had no idea if I was ever going to be good enough to play college ball. We were challengers of the unknown.
I wasn’t playing for the future on those mornings with Rupp; I was playing for the moment, for the present. I wanted to be good at something; I wanted to excel at something.
While I have never been a particularly dedicated athlete, Allred’s drive to excel, to find the limits of his physical ability and push himself beyond them, is inspiring, in spite of the likelihood that it is, at least partially motivated by his obsessive-compulsive disorder. The drive to be good can be, I think, found in all people: the polygamists amongst whom Allred was raised, the athletes with whom he competes in amateur, semi-pro, and professional basketball, and his own family, struggling to define themselves within and without the Apostolic United Brethren, the fundamentalist Mormon sect of Allred’s youth. [Read more...]