Monday, January 31, 2011

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED HORSE

Starting in my sophomore year sometime, I began to gather a group of kids up at the church parking lot almost everyday to play basketball with Larry and myself.  The kids were usually younger than us making Larry and me the stars of each team.  We played through the summers and through the winters taking a snow shovel along with us to scrape off the court if it was covered in snow.  Not a lot stopped us from playing ball.  On my first wedding anniversary I found myself at the church playing ball with the kids not realizing the importance of that particular day.  Basketball was foremost in my mind when I was younger and when I had free time, I was at the parking lot shooting baskets.

Larry had a deadly outside jumper and I was good from within ten feet with a hook shot that seldom missed.  I based my shots on that of two ball players that I watched on television consistently.  Lew Alcindor (Karrem Abdul Jabbar) and Jo Jo White were my idols along with Larry Drew.  These players were pure shooters and I felt like I did a fairly decent job imitating them.

When the kids weren't around to play, Larry and I played one on one a lot.  It was a pretty even game most of the time and it gave us a chance to polish up on our already awesome skills.  We were good and we knew it.  We could take the ball and drive or pull up with fade away jumpers and hit them well over fifty percent of the time.  When we played one on one we went at each other with everything we had.  There was no sluffing off when we played.  It was a matter of pride for either of us to beat the other in a sweat filled game.

It was one of those afternoons when we were playing one on one and wearing each other out when we saw a figure dribbling a basketball come walking towards the court.  We were both in our early twenties and we had control over that court anytime we wanted it.  The kids around the place knew that we would let them play eventually if they arrived during a game of one on one.  As the figure grew closer to us we stopped for a second.  It was someone we had never seen at the court before.  It was a girl dribbling that ball and she looked to be about a junior in High School.

She arrived at the court and watched us play a bit.  When we got to a stopping point and sat to rest she began shooting some short shots and layups.  We began talking to her and found out she was a sophomore at the school.  She loved basketball she told us but she seldom had anyone to play with.  Larry was the one who offered ourselves up to her.  He asked her if she wanted to play a game of HORSE and after she thought a bit she said sure, why not.

HORSE is a game where you have to match another players made shot.  If you miss the shot you receive a letter beginning with "H" and continue until you have all the letters to spell horse, then you are out of the game..  We shot around a bit with her as she warmed up.  I swear I didn't see her put up anything outside of ten foot and both Larry and I were feeling pretty confident when we began the game of HORSE.

We let her shoot first and she did a simple layup with the left hand.  No problem for me and Larry and we duplicated her shot.  She then began putting up some small jumpers from the ten foot range.  Again no problem.  None of us were missing any shots at all.  She went to running underhand layups which again did not cause either of us to gain a letter.  She was playing it safe to keep control of the ball I figured.  As long as she did not miss a shot, it was her shot that had to be duplicated.  It was starting to look like it was going to be a long game.

Then it happened.  She calmly set herself up about twenty five feet from the basket and let it fly.  The ball fell through the hoop with a swooshing sound indication it hit nothing but net.  A perfect shot. Larry and I looked at each other.  It could have been a lucky shot but no matter we had to match it.  Larry matched it with no problem while I clunked it off the front of the rim.  She moved around to the side of the hoop and let fly a twenty footer that again swished through the net.  Again I missed and earned the letter "O" to add to my "H".  Larry hit this one as well but I was thinking we had been had.  She stepped back to about thirty feet out and again threw up a perfect shot.  I missed again and Larry joined me this time.  The rest of the game she stayed out between twenty five and thirty feet pumping in jump shots like the hoop was twenty feet wide.  I don't recall every hearing one of her shots hit the rim.

It did not take me long to be put out of the game when I earned my "E".  Larry was closing in fast on me though.  He was making better than fifty percent of the shots he was matching to hers but sooner or later, Larry would roll one of the side of his fingers giving him another letter.  It wasn't long before she put up a tremendous thirty five foot shot that Larry clunked off the back of the rim earning him his "E" and ending the game.

She thanked us for letting her play and started to walk off.  We wanted more information on the school girl who had just kicked our butts.  Turns out she was a ball player on the girls junior varsity team at the high school.  She was a guard that had been working on her shooting to try to get a starting spot on the team.  Neither me or Larry could understand why she wasn't starting and she explained that there was a girl on the team, a senior, who was a really good shooter.

It caused me to shudder thinking that girls were getting this good at basketball.  She had whipped us and whipped us good.  I talked to Larry that evening about possibly hanging up my sneakers after that embarrassing display against a high school girl.  Not just a high school kid, but a girl.  She never came back to play that I remember but I know if she had, I would have done everything I could to get her on my team to play against the guys.

A valuable lesson was learned that day and one I try not to forget.  No matter who you are, there is always someone better, sometimes it is even a girl.

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