Basketball has always been my first love, I remember growing up always having a basketball in my hands at recess and after school. If you ever saw me as a kid, I always had a basketball in my hand. Just like everything else in life, if you want to be great at anything it takes constant, quality repetition. If you don’t put in the hours, days, and weeks into some endeavors than you want to be successful at nothing will come about. If you want something, in my case it was basketball handling skills, than you have to become a fanatic. I wasn’t born a six foot eight inches freak of nature athlete, dunking on everybody. I had to develop into being a smart player, using the whole court whether it was passing, defense, three point shots, plays etc. Growing up I was never going to be a center or power forward. What most professional basketball players with my size were playing, was more so guards or shooting guards. A tremendous amount of skill must be continually growing to have all the necessary ball handling, shooting, defensive, and play making skills to become a great guard.
Being a shorter, smaller basketball player has been an extremely humbling experience. I’ve learned a lot over the course of my recreational playing career. Some people will doubt you or show no sign of respect on the court just because you’re purely smaller. In middle school, one of my several favorite professional basketball players to watch was Steve Nash. Not only was Steve Nash mesmerizing to watch on the court, but he played with a certain type of passion I’ve never seen elsewhere in person. The times when he would come into my hometown’s basketball team and humiliate our players was quite an experience.
When you understand how professional players practice, you will start to piece together how this immense talent is displayed so often. Constant hours a day are devoted to improve dribbling and shooting. The US has the best basketball leagues in the world. It is certainly in your best interest if you aspire to be a great player, to routinely watch how the professionals play every game. Every season is a new season for new talent, and emerging styles of play come up. Professional players you’ve never heard of, come out sparking a new wave of learning. I always thought I had something to learn from every player I watched on TV. It didn’t matter the score or opponent, something could be learned from all the talent on the court.
From a world wide standpoint, it is very hard for European or Asian leagues to compete with the NBA. Basketball is not a world sport, like soccer. Only one country, the US, stands alone when it comes to elite, basketball dominance year after year. Every four years when the Olympics comes around it is very challenging for any country to make a run at the US. I remember growing up as a kid, seeing all the dream team USA basketball teams stomp on every other country. My first basketball jersey was a US basketball jersey, Michael Jordan being my favorite. At school, when we would play basketball at recess I would always wear the USA jersey. Everyone would play basketball at school, it was the best form of cardio. Running up and down the court for a lay up or a shot. Sometimes kids would play too rough in which case the recess supervisor would tell us to tone it down.
After elementary and middle school, I finally found my groove with basketball. High school basketball is extremely competitive. If you’ve never been to a high school basketball game you’re missing out. When it comes to the size and athleticism, high school athletes are different. Some of the best high school players came out of my high school’s league. It’s tough to compete against kids that play AAU basketball year round. All the best basketball players are playing on year round basketball teams. Most of the NBA stars were at one point growing up playing on youth AAU basketball teams. It isn’t uncommon to see all the best college basketball scouts at AAU basketball games. That was the biggest problem I had growing up, I never played on a AAU basketball team.
When high school came around, all the kids were a lot bigger and better. I was a small guard, capable of dribbling through traffic and making plays. If our team had possession of the ball, we were going to score. Basketball has been the biggest part of my life for as long as I could remember. Without the ability to play as a youngster, I would have never pursued it in high school. Even though, I never played very much in high school I still learned a lot about being a good kid. There’s tons of non physical attributes you learn that make a you a better human. I will never regret the days of playing basketball, and I look forward to all the great chapters the sport will bring in the years to come.