In those late Winter months when the sun broke early, and then night came urgent, as if the sky
was flicked on and off—for in those days when we were ghosts outside and our shadows paced
in the overcast of a street-light—back then, after homework was finished and before dinner was
served, you could find us on the court—jump-shots, lay-ups, behind-the-backs—phantoms on
fast-breaks in high-tops. You could find us living for the glory of fade-away-three-pointers. You
could find us mimicking the sounds of a swish or the clank of a missing basket on the board. You
could find us like animals on stampedes above the black asphalt, chasing the ball as if prey.
Basketball was all we thought about, at every moment—all we discussed. Even in Algebra,
somehow a quadratic equation would better our shot. And in History, we presented biographies
on Naismith and Spaulding. And somehow the Food Pyramid started with Gatorades. And any
hypothesis began and ended with what would increase our vertical-leaps. If we could, we’d wear
our team uniform to school, but instead, chose the AND1 brand attire—the jersey with no
sleeves, the polyester shorts below our knees, the sweatbands and wristbands, the All Ball or
Nothing slogan. We lived for the Game. We went to war for the Game—four boys, two-on-two,
fighting for one ball, one hoop, and the namesake. Hot-brows and busted lips—jammed thumbs
and sore wrist—momma-jokes and shit-talk—screen, screen, box-out, butter, brick, snuffed, run
that back, and-one—the language of our realm, for it was our way of life. We’d spend all night
out there, training for the next game—running suicides from either side of the court, dribbling
with our eyes close between cones, practicing free-throws and One-Twos and Two-Threes from
out of bounds. We played until the dark exhausted the light—until the ball would undoubtedly be
lost after bouncing that one final time off the rim. And when that happened, which it always did
and none of us volunteered to go find it, we’d turn in—and look up, with our backs laying
against the court—giving the stars our eyes and dream—maybe like the Greeks did—how they
dreamt of Orion and Pegasus—and while under those same stars after however many games to
twenty-one—sweating, slick, cold, and wet, we dreamt of our gods, our heroes. We dreamt of the
day when we could grab rim—the day when we could lift from the ground as effortlessly as
Vince Carter or Kobe Bryant. We dreamt of the clean-crossovers, like Allen Iverson—leaving
whatever defensive player with two broken ankles. We dreamt of buzzer-beaters, of Reggie
Miller shooting outside the three-point line with five seconds left. We dreamt of the dribblers, the
free-throwers, the triple-doublers—the men who flew on Nike swishes—the angels of The Paint.

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