|Just some Sunday afternoon street ball.|
As we played, I thought about one of the books I'm reading, Coach K's Five Point Play:Duke's Journey to the 2001 National Championship. (Side note: I blame Coach K for getting me back to pleasure reading. I've soaked up two of his books already Leading with the Heart and The Gold Standard, which is about him head coaching Lebron and Kobe to Gold in the 2008 Olympics.) Anyway, in the current book I'm reading, Coach K makes a point to his point guard (and my favorite Duke player) Jason Williams that every play----every loose ball, every rebound, and every shot---could be the difference of winning or losing a game. And we should play like every game is the championship game, therefore every play is a championship-winning play.
That went through my head as I took my shots, "This is the game-winning, champion shot" as I missed. And missed again. And missed. My opponent, who went by "K", smacked me 11-4.
Matt's Championship record 0-1.
I challenged him to a game of HORSE after, where I preceded to make all of his shots and almost all of mine, running him H-O-R to nothing until he walked over to the other court and asked the guys playing there if they wanted to do some 3 v 3. That's cool, we don't need to finish our game.
Matt's Championship record 0-1-1 (unfinished game).
"Every play----every loose ball possession, every rebound, and every shot---could be the difference of winning or losing a game. And we should play like every game is the championship game. Therefore every play is a championship-winning play."
We joined up with four other guys who walked over. We split up 3v3, with me matching up with "K", us being the shortest guys on the court. After some rusty play, the other team ran us with a 4-0 lead, and I felt part to blame as I missed a couple open looks and let "K" score on me during this run. I finally took a shot from my sweet spot from the right side of the baseline where there's a crack on the court, getting a lucky rim to backboard bounce as it got our team on the board, 4-1.
From there we went back and forth, playing by 1's, the three-point line being 2's and playing to 11. The other team made a nice shot, leading 10-4 and it looked like the game was getting away from us. I missed more shots during this run but felt encouraged as my teammates always told me to shoot when I was open. Later I got a pass behind the arc and I put it up---making the only three-point-shot of the game. It was so pretty going in. 10-6.
I think my shot gave our team a surge of confidence because one of my teammates said, "Let's go, defend." I clamped up. There was no way my match-up "K", who was playing well, was going to get pass me or get an open look. I put my hand in his face, my other hand low (remembering a Michael Jordan defensive tip from a YouTube video), kept low and moved my feet with him. Every possession was their game-winning shot and I was going to do everything to prevent that. He drove right on me and I stayed with him, clogging his lane as he tried to pass it hard.
The ball hit my face, knocking my glasses off, popping one of the lens out. One of my teammates came over, "You all right?" "Yeah, that happens sometimes," I said. It does, actually.
My team rallied, as we went 10-7, then 10-8, 10-9, finally 10-10. During this run I missed a couple more but making another one, using one of my screens well. More importantly I stayed in front of my man, and fought for every rebound, even grunting and yelling as I jumped and cleaned up in the land of the tall. More encouragement from a teammate, "Nice hustle!"
"K" had "I-want-to-win" in his eyes. Next shot counted. He drove again on me, trying to take a shot, but this time his arm hit my face and my glasses fell again, with the same lens popping out. "You should probably take them off," someone suggested. "Yeah, you're probably right."
I took them off and everything was a little bit blury, but my eyesight being not that bad, I could manage.
A couple of possessions later, I asked for the rock and started dribbling harder between my hands, differently than I had been during the entire game, with some in-the-zone fierceness in my face. One of my teammates piped, "Looks angry!" I passed it, ran around a screen as the ball went around, getting back to me at the left side of the free throw line. I put it up, high arc, my right wrist still in the air with my follow through.
I'm convinced that every player that makes a game-wining shot knows it's going in even before it goes through the hoop. It just feels right leaving your hand, as it's in line, and my high arc made it even a more slow-motion drama.
"Is that game?" someone said. "That's game."
I remember what I had read. Take every shot like it's the game-winning shot and play every game like it's the championship.
I was pumped. Smiling. I just made the game-winning shot. And this was my championship game after a championship week.
Matt's Championship Record for the day: 1-1-1.
Last night, Mimi commented on how she sees me a man being fully alive. I truly feel it. I'm in no way perfect and I often miss, but I want make every shot count. Thank you God.