I never understood why so many movies were made about basketball before today. Dribbling drum-beats in a pre-dawn gymnasium, the quiet calm that comes over me transcends anything “just a game” could provide. Each meeting of ball and floor is rhythmic but varied, echoing in my mind even before the next repetition. A ball between the legs and then around the back in a dance of instinctual choreography comes naturally. Creative. Expressive. On a cold day before I sell my body and my mind to anything but.
There is healing in that dribbling sensation, and recovery and respite in methodical shots. They come here — beyond the arc — or there — a layup — or elsewhere from the floor. The point where the ball leaves my hand does not matter, nor does whether the ball actually goes into the hoop. Call the bank, air-ball it, or drain in. As soon as the ball leaves my hands, no matter the outcome, the feeling of exhilaration comes full force, like a Gus Johnson exclamation in the final seconds of regulation during March Madness.
There’s something cathartic in the experience. It’s timeless – effortless – taking me back to days when I was in middle school, pretending to mix-it up in And-One streetball fashion with my I3 shoes and a bunch of awkward rich white kids (and one Arab) at recess. With no before, no after. My sore body forgets the rushing heart rate of minutes before on the elliptical machine, trading in calories burned and gripped stares at a screen for imagination fulfilled and fading glances at a rim. All the while blessedly ignorant of the stresses in the day to come.
Shot after shot. Lay-up after lay-up. The morning, looming in a sunrise somewhere outside these echoes, this court, it no longer seems so daunting. Nothing seems so daunting.
They say there’s love in basketball. I say, there’s healing.