With the NBA and large parts of society on hold right now, Phoenix Suns memories have been a great way to help relieve stress and relive greatness.
The world isn’t right, and the absence of sports, the NBA, or the Phoenix Suns isn’t a sliver of what’s wrong. We carry concerns about our families, our income, our friends, and to a degree, the world as we know it. Spring is here, how will it, summer, and fall look to each of us? Through these worries, I have found myself deferring back to that childhood concrete with an orange ball in my hands and Suns players on my mind.
In the middle of the fields, orchards, and livestock, where I grew up in Idaho and Northern California, my parents always made sure I had a concrete slab and a hoop. Common kid and teen troubles were put to the side as I dashed around invisible defenders like I was Kevin Johnson or worked on using my pretend size to back someone down to fall into a fadeaway a la Charles Barkley. Hours were spent burning off childhood emotions while I worked on my skills for the NBA.
Every few nights, my dad would saunter out to show me his old school set jumper and give me a few lessons. We would talk about KJ and Barkley and my dad loved to call out the shot clock so I could work on swishing the game-winner. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this pure, unadulterated joy and a healthy workout were my ways of dealing with childhood and teen stress.
The highlight reel of my career consisted of some high school basketball and my peak was reached in fitness centers’ basketball gym pickup games; the work didn’t pay off financially but certainly provided thousands of hours of fun and stress relief.
As my ankles gave out when my age crossed my mid-20’s, the basketball was put away until my kids were old enough to enjoy the game. While I played, my coaching hat was on to teach my two boys the game. They listened a bit to Dad but were more interested in playing the same fantasies that I did, replacing KJ and Charles Barkley with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The time spent shooting hoops with my kids was irreplaceable. As competitiveness grew in their teen years, drills took over for many of the pretend scenarios of hitting game-winners. Like many kids, those drills I put my sons through were soon replaced with video games that kept them away from the basketball court, and my orange ball went back in the garage.
A funny thing has happened at my house over the last few weeks. As stresses and fears of COVID-19 have risen, and hours spent home have increased, I’ve found myself back on the concrete with that orange ball in my hands. Each dribble and shot takes away measurable stress. I now find myself pretending to be Devin Booker hitting a mid-range game-winner in my driveway, or Deandre Ayton with a tip dunk (pretending the rim isn’t set at eight feet).
With both of my sons’ lives on hold and forced home, they sometimes join me and quickly remind me that this 42-year-old dad is anything but Devin Booker on the court – in my head, I know what I am and watch out NBA, I’m getting better again.
Basketball fans, if you have a way to pick up that ball while staying safe, let those childhood dreams replace some of the worries that we read about and see on TV. You’ll be appreciative of the distraction. Thank you, Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and all the other PHoenix Suns players that have let me stand in their shoes while putting up shots at my own home court.