The passing of the Globe Trotter’s Meadowlark Lemon got me thinking about the NBA during the 1960s. I lived in Los Angeles at the time and my roommate had a source for free tickets. So, when the Celtics or Royals came to town we’d get a couple of seats and take in the game. We’d also try to never miss a Celtics or Royals game when aired on TV.
Somewhere along the line I lost interest in professional basketball. Last week, however, I saw that Cleveland was playing the Warriors and decided to give it a try. I didn’t set a timer but I doubt I lasted ten minutes before reaching for the remote and I don’t have a clue about why. The only time since the 60s that I’ve shown interest in the NBA was during the Jordan years with the Bulls. There was just something magnetic about watching Michael Jordan. It became more difficult once Dennis Rodman came on board.
Before starting this blog I read a summary of the Celtics during the 1960s and it was a great read. The names mentioned became legendary because their achievements were legendary. Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, along with coach Red Auerbach, won ten national championships in eleven years, eight of them consecutively. No team before or since has racked up that kind of record.
Basically I’ve never been a basketball person. Most other sports I understood the basics. When we played sandlot baseball and side yard football as kids I had something to offer. I was a decent pitcher, could hold my own at first base, and had some talent as a switch hitter. In football I was one of the first to get chosen because of my size. I was in demand as both a full back or a lineman.
When it came to the typical pickup basketball game I was always the last to be picked. The team captains would actually negotiate over who was going to get stuck with me. Agreements like, “We’ll take Chapman but two of your players have to play with one of their arms strapped to their side,” were typical.
I honestly never understood what I was supposed to do on a basketball court. If the ball came to me I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. My feet became stuck in place, my eyes blurred over, my thoughts became fuzzy and I’d often end up simply tossing the ball to someone I thought looked familiar. There are at least two reasons basketball was not my game. First, it requires a brain that reacts quicker than mine. Second is the demand for speed and physical agility, of which I have neither. Another possible reason is lung capacity. I’ve never been a runner and I’ve never been good at anything requiring sustained breathing. I was a shot putter in jr. high school and pretty good at it. But, when the coach would shout, “OK, give me four track laps and hit the showers,” it was like a death sentence.
Finally, I’m writing this with full knowledge that March Madness 2016 is looming on the horizon. Enduring this annual ritual.