When I was a kid, Mom sent me to basketball camp for a week during the summer. A sleep away camp on a mountain in Virginia, it was run by the local college. Coaches and players from colleges and high schools would come help with instruction and offer legitimacy to the whole operation. A few "legends" would come out for a day or so and lecture about what it was like in the NBA. An NBA player talking to kids - to me, to ME! - still makes me giddy after all these years.
That year I was an 11 year old - an elder statesmen at the camp (12 was the max). A tall, gangly kid, my coordination lagged sadly behind my frame. I was a good hustle guy and had a few pet moves down in the post. Specifically, I was the proud owner of a decent drop-step and a fun up-and-under step-through that was deadly to opponents who had no idea I couldn't make that 6-footer to save my life. Bite on that fake though and I could score - otherwise not so much. Shooting escaped me. I simply could not make a jumper to save my life. That would come later, I blissfully thought (it never did).
We had drills in the morning and afternoon and games at night. My team consisted of myself, Fredrick, Anthony plus four other kids I can't remember. You'd do drills and play with your team. Our coach was some local high school guy that I recall looking like Steve Harvey. Ah shit. Now I can't remember what he looked like - okay, imagine he's Steve Harvey.
Fredrick was smaller than just about anyone else and miserable at basketball. His mom sent him there to get him some exercise. He wore thick rimmed glasses. He would do things like put the ball on his hip with one hand, tap his foot on the ground, and yell at you for "not respecting his jab step." Fredrick was fucking hilarious and naturally my best friend on the team.
Anthony, on the other hand, was chubby, yet fluid. He moved with a grace that was unexpected given his stature. He could go between his legs, spin to the basket, and lay it in so smoothly. He would just drain jumpers. He was options 1, 2, and 3 on offense. He was kind of an asshole, but he could play so we all deferred to him.
Our team was terrible. Most teams just doubled Anthony all day because they could.
One night, after Tree Rollins spoke, he stayed to watch our game. (I think he might have been friends with Steve Harvey). Tree Rollins. He was a bit before my time but I sure as shit knew who he was.
That night, we were down by 11 with about 3 minutes to go.
My guy is a few inches shorter than me and generally leaving me to double Anthony. He put up a shot which clanged off the front iron right to me. Lay-up and we're down 9.
Fredrick brings the ball up - something he never did - but no one was guarding him. He passes to me in the post. Drop-step, lay-up, and we're down 7.
We get a stop at the other end. Anthony dribbles up the right side and shockingly, he passes to me on the right block. I've already drop-stepped my defender. Time to employ the up-and-under. I take one dribble and side-step into the middle of lane. Shot fake and he bites - so hard - and lay it up. Down 5.
Something happens on defense. We get a stop. It's not important.
At this point, Steve Harvey is yelling - SCREAMING - for the team to get it to me. I will remember this forever because this will never happen again in my life. I will go on to play varsity in high school but, at best, average 4 points a game, spending most of my time setting screen for brighter lights.
No one will ever yell at my teammates to pass me the ball. Not even me.
I am delirious at this point. The ball bounces to me in the left block again. I attempt a sweeping hook shot over my left, coming across the lane. I do not recall having ever attempted such a shot in real life. I had seen pictures of Kareem doing this. I cannot explain what possesses me to try it out now. In front of Tree Fucking Rollins.
On the other end, Anthony pick-pockets the point guard for the other team. 15 seconds remain. I streak up the right side and Anthony lofts a pass to me. Standing at the right wing, down 3, I had the hot hand and I left fly with a 3.
It flies over the rim and I just so happened to be at a 45 degree angle to the basket whereby, miraculously it misses the backboard completely as well, sailing out of bounds. The other team received the ball and, although we tried to foul, they made the free throws.
Anthony called me "Airball" mercilessly for the rest of camp, even after we'd changed teams. He would tell my new teammates not to pass to me.
Fredrick was still my friend. I didn't have too many that year, but he was. Jab step.