My sudden rise to basketball stardom
The roof leaks at the gym where I play basketball. On wet days, I have felt raindrops on my head. We close off the wet areas and play around buckets, barrels, and mops.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The gym owner has decided to address the problem and closed the gym for two months for roof repairs. This welcome decision left me stranded: a basketball player without a court.
The 92nd Street Y has become my temporary gym. For years, I have attended concerts and literary programs here. Inch for inch, it is, in my view, the most cultured place in New York City.
My first two weeks playing there do not go well. After a game, a teammate complains, "You need to run more and shoot less." This to me, after decades of playing and the captaincy of a high school team in '55! But he has a point. Being unfamiliar with the players and the gym, my shot is off and it's hard to keep up with others on a bigger court.
Then one night the 92nd Street Y holds a three-point shooting contest. I sign up. I've been developing this shot in order to spend less time playing under the basket where the action is more physical. My competitors in the contest include some of the best players. Each of us is given one minute to make as many baskets as possible.
When my turn comes, wearing my red-and-white-striped gondolier jersey, I stride onto the court and fire a rapid succession of long shots.
I do well. Every time I score, cheers ring out in the gym. The crowd has taken a liking to the gray-haired elderly gentlemen. (That's me.)
Players with low scores are eliminated. After several rounds, I find myself in the finals. The cheers are even louder when I compete in the finals against a 19-year-old. To the three-point line I march and make eight baskets in a minute. Not bad. But my opponent makes 10. I come in second.
The host for the event is Teresa Weatherspoon ("Spoon" to her many admirers), who plays professionally in the Women's National Basketball Association with the New York Liberty. She presents me with a prize and writes these words on the photo taken of us:
"Bill, you were absolutely incredible. Truly enjoyed watching you."
At the 92nd Street Y I am now a basketball legend. Players welcome me on the team. No one complains about my shooting.