Tuesday, March 12, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Big O by Oscar Robertson, excerpt two)

from The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game by Oscar Robertson:

When I was bringing the ball up court, a guy might leave his man and rush me, double-teaming me, trying to steal the ball. So I had to be aware of where the other players were in relation to me, had to learn to recognize when a double-team was coming and what to do about it. If someone crowded me, I had to know how to blow past him. In every game, it seemed I would pick up something worth practicing. Then, the second that I got even passable at a certain move, I would try it out in a game. Something didn’t work? More practice. A different move. Now could I use that to better advantage?

There’s a saying about the Lord helping those who help themselves, and it’s true in basketball as well. The guys noticed me improving, saw how serious I was about the game. Soon they started giving me pointers. Hey, Oscar, you know, if you use your foot to jab . . .

Maybe it was because of all the basketball beatings I’d taken at the hands of my elders, the gauntlets I’d been put through just to be able to shoot at the back of the house with my brothers, let alone stay in a game at the Dust Bowl, but after a while, whenever I played, I felt at east. I had skills nobody else had, understood things in a way that they did not, did things they could not. As I played, I was hearing whoops of approval and getting high-fives from other guys—both on and off the court. And rather than bask in a good play or win, I was the kind of kid who got greedy from success. It made me want to do better, work harder. Without knowing it, I started becoming a better player, someone who knew how to react and adjust to a situation without having to think about it, a player who understood that huge effort had to be his routine. Throughout my adult life, I’ve been described as one of the most fundamentally sound players in the history of basketball. But so much of what I know I learned on the playground. I didn’t learn much basketball in high school, or even in college, but rather from playing outside in the park.

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