In high school, basketball was the center of my life. I was captain of the school team. When walking my dog on the street, I practiced dribbling. Before going to bed, I jumped up to touch the ceiling a hundred times.
The neighbors downstairs were not amused.
My basketball career came to an end when I received a "D" in two college courses. The freshman dean placed me on probation and told me to concentrate my energies on academic pursuits.
I emerged from college an honor student, but without the laurels that accompany successful athleticism.
Years later, feeling the need for more exercise than walking on New York City streets could provide, I joined a recreational facility near where I live.
I started by working out in the fitness room. Push-ups. Sit-ups. Ugh! I dislike calisthenics. Then I decided to swim. Fine for the sea lions I pass each morning in the Central Park Zoo on my way to work, but not for me. Team sports are what I enjoy.
I went into the gym to shoot baskets. For decades my basketball talents had lain dormant. I shot high-arching one-handers from all over the court. Swish! Swish! Swish! (Yes, there were a few air balls, which missed both rim and backboard, but let's accentuate the positive.)
One day I was asked to join a game at the gym. I acquitted myself well, getting my share of baskets and rebounds, and playing solid defense.
Six years later, I play basketball three times a week. I look forward to each game. What a contrast to my sedentary life at home and work!
To some, my game seems old-fashioned, for I shoot my best shot (a one-hander from 18 feet out) in a balletic manner favored by Carl Braun. He was a hero of the New York Knickerbockers in the 1950s, when many of my teammates were not yet born.
The game is faster today, but I manage to keep up. When a player in his 20s is assigned to guard me, I fall back on cunning. "Do you have a grandfather?" I ask him before the game starts.
"I want you to think of me as your grandfather."
Politeness requires him to let me grab an additional rebound or two, and grant me the extra second I need to launch my deadly one-hander.