Hoop Dreams

It is a mystery to those who have never really been passionate about anything, to have them understand how someone could fall in love with playing a sport.  As a young teenager I was one of those people who didn’t understand… until basketball became a part of me.  Today I saw a documentary of two young black boys in the Chicago area; they were followed by a camera crew for their 4 years of high school.  They were chosen to be documented, because at a young age they were sought after and recruited by private schools to play basketball.

I personally know people who were recruited by private schools to play basketball.  You have to understand that these kids were given a great opportunity, no doubt about that.  But, one can’t forget that most of these black boys who are recruited to play basketball for these private schools, are kids whose families have no money to send them to those schools.  And, since their personal life is so different from their average classmate, it is basically impossible to find commonalities to create meaningful friendships.  So, they’re poorer, feeling ostracized, and probably having a difficult time academically.

The two boys were from inner-city Chicago.  The time period I believe was from 1987-1991.  It was obvious to see that both of the kids were in love with basketball until their sophomore or junior year.  It was then, that one of them had to transfer to a public school because of his poor grades, and the other had to have surgery on his knee (even though he was an Nike All-American).  During their senior years their love for the sport of basketball was diminishing, as the burden of being a star basketball player became overbearing and their personal identity had been lost to the sport.  Meaning, almost everyone around them saw them as a basketball player, and trying to live their lives through them.

I remember my high school years playing basketball in high school.  Not that I believe my life can be compared with those two boys who were documented; I still can feel the emotions they were going through because my dreams of playing NCAA Div-1 basketball.  After I knew I would not be able to play basketball professionally (because of all of my issues in my life), that never stopped my love for the game of basketball.

For years, I was infatuated with playing basketball.  It was an addiction.  For about 3 years of my life, off and on, I would go play or workout somewhere at least 3 times a week, and most of the time by myself.  And, since I was 19 or 20, I have always kept some type of basketball gear in my vehicle, in case I coincidently came across people playing in a gym somewhere.  I actually still keep a bag full of workout gear and a basketball in my trunk; though I rarely have the energy or time to play.

In the documentary, I was so awestruck by the large burden on one of the kids as a senior in high school.  He was not only a struggling student, he was a father, he was in pain from his knee surgery as a junior in high school, and he began to lose his dreams and motivation to play basketball.  He said something so profound for someone his age.  The boy said this while speaking to the cameraman, “You know people are always telling me, ‘Don’t forget me when you make it, playing basketball.’, but what I want to know is will they forget me if I don’t make it.”  I feel that statement so much.  These student-athletes live in a world were people give them whatever they want and more, everyone seems to smile at them and long for their attention… but it will all end as soon as you stop being a student-athlete.  Then you have to go back home.

How many of us get to a point of stagnation, when we achieve our dreams of something, and then realize your dream was not all you hoped it to be.  How many young teenagers look at the life of celebrities, models or entertainers with envy?  I believe that most of the time, they are more attracted to the money and fame, than they are to the actual lifestyle of those who work to achieve and maintain that status.  You know, how many people have dreamed of being married, but soon after recognize that being single wasn’t all that bad.

I will never achieve my hoop dreams of  playing NBA basketball.  I know that.  I also used to dream of spending all my time with the girl of my dreams… going across the world with her, working out and playing basketball with her.  That dream has also faded away.  So now… I just dream of dreaming.  I’ve learned that life is full of flaws, issues, obligations and imperfections; and though my wants have not changed,  I guess I feel my contentment and fulfillment has to come from my hope for love, and faith that eternity will come slowly but surely.

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