Dribbling toward a road trip

Yes, these fine individuals seriously spent their Wednesday bouncing a basketball all day. (Daniel Banks/Suns.com)

Yes, these fine individuals seriously spent their Wednesday bouncing a basketball all day. (Daniel Banks/Suns.com)

PHOENIX – In concept it’s the simplest of basketball skills, but in practice it’s more mentally grueling than the LSATs.

Dribble a basketball for 18 hours straight, outplay, outwit and outlast your opponents and win a trip for two on an all-inclusive Suns road trip next season with everything from a spot on the Suns’ charter plane to game tickets included.

That was the scenario for 25 participants in Wednesday’s “Bounce with the Suns” competition presented by the Health & Wealth Raffle.

Dribblers started competing at the Bud Light Paseo right outside US Airways Center at 6 a.m. (which is what eliminated me) and at least seven dribblers kept on bouncing until just before midnight, with five-minute breaks every hour and Subway sandwiches to keep them nourished.

Some dribblers texted all day, some stood in the corner to avoid distractions and others talked a little smack.

Watching the final minutes of the competition I couldn’t help but be reminded of the final immunity challenge in Survivor. You’ve been bouncing an orange sphere for almost 18 hours, wasting an entire day of your life that you will never get back, and it all comes down to keeping that mental concentration for just a few more moments.

In Survivor, that could be the difference between a million dollars and 39 days of torture for nothing. In “Bounce with the Suns,” it’s the difference between a road trip of your dreams and that awful biting feeling of just not being mentally tough enough to pull out a victory down the stretch (and for once I’m not talking about the Suns on the court).

23-year-old Reuben Juarez, the odds-on favorite to take the thing when I stopped by before the Suns-Jazz game, left on his own volition in seventh when he was bribed with courtside seats to the Suns’ season finale against Golden State.

At the request of his agent/girlfriend, Juarez skipped out after an exhausting day of almost 18 hours. He made the decision because he felt courtside seats are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the type of immediate prize that’s better than a road trip a year from now.

“When do you ever come across these?” Juarez asked about tickets that sometimes go for $1,500.

Juarez said he “could have done it all the way” with a strategy of switching hands so as not to get so tired, although he admitted that his knees and forearms ached a bit. He added that he fought boredom by just focusing on the prize at hand and not losing his concentration.

When midnight rolled around only three remained, and then when the contestants were asked to crouch while dribbling, a young basketball-playing girl saw her ball scoot away.

The final two were offered a chance to share the prize, but at this point the dribblers’ competitive natures made it so there was going to be one winner and one loser on this day.

The players were commanded to dribble while standing on one leg already 18 hours of soreness in, and then cheerleaders waved their pom poms next to the dribblers to cause a nice little distraction.

Finally, when his competitor switched hands when they were told they must continue to dribble with just one, Adolfo Torres, 27, came away victorious as his three brothers and one sister cheered him on at the ripe hour of 12:08 a.m.

“I’m very excited right now,” Torres said, beaming. “I had to do it for my brothers.”

Now the real hard part comes for Torres. With his oldest brother voluntarily taking himself out of the running, he has to choose which one of his two younger brothers to take on his trip.

I suggested he make them do his laundry or something like that, but he had an even better idea: he would give his brothers a basketball and see how long they can continue to dribble.

Torres certainly had hours and hours to think of such a plan during an 18-hour stretch in which he said he was just concentrating on the task at hand, staying motivated by how much the prize would mean to his brothers.

His sister said she watched him on the Suns.com feed all day, and then the entire family came down to support him in the evening.

My question is, how in the world did 25 people just decide they could play hooky from work or school to dribble a basketball? I know we’re in an economic meltdown, but did all these people just not have jobs or something?

Juarez told me he just requested a day off from work (hopefully his boss doesn’t read this blog) and now has to be up at 6 a.m. for work today.

Torres also asked his boss off from work and explained his aim. His boss willingly obliged, and that leaves Mr. Torres with a hell of a story to tell at work today.

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