Stop Paying Attention to Age

“I need a slow motion video, right now,” he recited bubbly when he answered my phone call. Most greet others with a hug or a handshake. Our special welcome is a rap ad-lib that we uttered no less than a thousand times in one day during the summer of 2011. We joked, drank, partied, and conversed during his one night visit to NYC. Most importantly, we needed a slow motion video for our plethora of shenanigans.

We met while I attended the best university at a “we have extra money in our budget so let’s host an extravagant buffet styled lunch” appreciation luncheon during the summer. His mother was then an administrative assistant in the Dean’s office and proudly introduced me to her soon to be fourteen year old son. His tall lanky frame, with over sized hands and feet, highlighted that was he in the midst of a growth sprout. His mom and my boss mentor suddenly disappeared into the crowed after the brief introduction, and we were left awkwardly together. Making small talk (Editor’s note: small talk with a teenager is top ten hardest things to do in life…don’t doubt me, just shake your head in agreement), I asked what he liked to do in his free time, and he tersely replied, “Play basketball.” I then invited him to hoop with me and some friends, not thinking that he would take me up on the offer. But he did; I still remember the phone call from his mother asking what time she should bring him to the gym. A couple days later, we were running up and down the court together. He was on my team because my big brother instincts wanted to protect him because neither my friends nor I knew if he could actually hoop since he was younger than we were and if he sucked it was only right that I shouldered the burden. Impressively, he held his own against the older competition and we won the majority of our games. More importantly, our friendship began.

We are six years apart, and being the elder I assumed the mentor role. We spoke occasionally about school and his social life; I mainly listened and offered advice when asked for it. After I graduated, our conversations continued, evolving as we each became more of ourselves. The frequency decreased each year, but we always made it a point to check in with each other ever so often. For example, when I found out that I was going to have a child at twenty-three, we spoke about it like brothers. I shared with him my anxieties and apprehensions, especially given that both of us had grown up without our biological fathers present. Likewise, when he was having a difficult time in college, we spoke about it like brothers. I encouraged him to continue his educational journey, and even sent him some money for “books.”

After all the pleasantries and small talk, he exploded that he connected with his biological father and siblings. The story seemed surreal; he went to college with his half sister and even met her a couple times because they shared a similar friend group. Only a few months earlier did she somehow connect the dots. I smiled when I heard the excitement in his voice about being a big brother and how he and his sisters are actively working on crafting meaningful relationships. And then the conversation became authentic when we broached the difficult questions about his father and their initial meeting. Undeterred and maturely, he detailed the work in progress of moving past the past and focusing on the future. I could hear, faintly, the hurt in his voice that he was actively moving beyond. He understood that bitterness would destroy this opportunity, so he decided to be happy and embrace the moment. During our two hour conversation, I learned from him. He showcased for me what letting go actually looks like. He demonstrated a strength and courageousness that left me in awe. I just kept saying in my head, “I want to be like him when I grew up” because he was handling tough situations in an admirable way that I wanted to emulate.

After we hung up the phone, some two hours later, I decided that I can no longer pay attention to age because it can not quantify one’s wisdom and maturity. I have met some older adults who act like children immaturely. Similarly, I have met some young adults who speak and act with a knowledge beyond what one would expect given their age. Thus, I am actively working to remove my assumptions about others based on their age.

My Son, Larry Bird, and Boston Market

Last winter, my son received an animated book about basketball, For the Love of Basketball from A-Z, which highlights the best players in NBA history while reviewing the alphabet, from his “uncle” (aka my best friend). His “uncle” is a huge Celtics fan; makes no sense to me because as a New Yorker, I hate all things Boston (blame it on my love for the Yankees) and think that all other New Yorkers feel the same way. I’m wrong; he bleeds Celtic green.

Earlier this summer, my son’s interest in basketball spiked. He wants to look at games with me; he practices his dribble; he watches his uncle, my youngest brother, play an NBA video game. Hence my excitement when he grabbed this book off the shelf, while we were getting ready to leave the apartment. Walking down the hallway to the elevator, my son fumbles with the book as he tries to read it and put on his book bag at the same time. In the elevator, he flips the pages to the letter B; there is a huge picture of Larry “Legend” Bird. “Larry Bird was one of the greatest Celtics players of all time,” I share with him. He does not look up, yet responds confidently, “I know, but I don’t like him.” Confused as to why he so adamantly dislikes Larry Bird, a player that he has never seen play, and more than likely never heard of before this book, I ask him, “Why not?”

He finally looks up at me and responds, “I don’t like Boston. I only eat from their market.”

Soccer From a Basketball Perspective

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Soccer is undoubtedly the number one sport in the world; their fans are the epitome of the word “fanatic.” It is a team sport, in which individual skill is important but not necessarily needed for domination. It is also a fairly inexpensive sport to play, which allows for all interested to try; there are stories of kids in poor Brazilian neighborhoods playing soccer with rocks or other poorly made round objects, ranging from socks to rubber bands.

Not only am I basketball coach, but I am also a player (extra points to you if you caught that early 90’s television allusion, eternalized by the late great Notorious BIG in one of his lyrics.) Watching soccer, I see so many similarities with basketball. I am falling in love with this sport with each tournament I watch.

Below are some observations:

-spacing is important; finding the open space leads to scoring opportunities
-flopping is universal
-fast breaks are exciting, especially when players are slashing to the ball; quick decisions (reactions) facilitate the intensity
-defense is essential; the goal keeper often is the most athletic player, stretching, diving, jumping to defend the goal
-since most games are relatively low scoring, many games often end in a 0-0 tie, scoring opportunities make all in attendance (or watching on the television, as I am) anxious and excited
-soccer fans are crazy passionate about their team, their country
-their footwork is beyond impressive; the way they handle the ball with their feet (and sometimes head) bewilders and amazes
-they attack the middle of the various zones and then stretch to the sides, only to return to the middle, which is exactly the way to beat any zone
-referees make terrible calls universally; one cannot blame them because they are human and make mistakes, which are then scrutinized relentlessly via replays–can you imagine if that was the case with our lives…no thank you
-good passing beats any defense; much of these games look like multiple triangle offenses are being played simultaneously
-European women and men have impeccable fashion sense
-tattoos and different ways (i.e. hair styles) to express one’s individuality are ever present

American Racism–That Train Is Never Later

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A few days ago, I wrote about the Jeremy Lin sensation that was sweeping the nation, most notably New York City. That post received roughly 350 views in one day, easily making it my most viewed page thus far. Thankfully, it sparked conversation among my friends and co-workers. Most agreed with my sentiments, and one argued that my post had no point because “everything in America is racialized.” While I understood the argument (and agreed), I stressed that the language surrounding Jeremy Lin can be offensive, even if the intentions are good.

Enter ESPN.

The above picture is a screen shot of ESPN’s worldwide title page after the Knicks unfortunately lost to the New Orleans Hornets.

“Chink in the armor.”

Wait, What?

Really? You are just going to freely and thoughtlessly use the word “chink,” which has been used as a derogatory word towards Asians and Asian Americans for many years. Really? Was that the popular decision in the newsroom? You thought it was ok to let that title rock worldwide. Really?

Jeremy Lin’s poor performance last night did not necessitate such a racist, tasteless response.

Similarly, Jeremy Lin’s spectular play does not necessitate such racist, tasteless “support.”

A few years ago, Chris Rock, one of my favorite comedians, noticed that the patriotic language around the war progressively became more racist, progressing from F all these foreigners, to F the French, to F all these arabs, to F all these illegal aliens. As the language become more hostile and targeted, he waited for Blacks and Jews to enter the crosshairs. Because, he jokes, “That train [racism] is never late.”

Sorry Blake and Lebron-Top Five Most Disrespectful NBA Dunks

“Which one? Blake or Lebron?”

This question and its cousin-like questions have dominated the conversation silo of my male friendships for the best couple of days. Lebron James had a monster dunk over John Lucas and Blake Griffin followed up (and some would argue showed up Lebron) with a devastating dunk of his own by posterizing Kendrick Perkins only a few days later. One could argue that Lebron’s dunk is like the 2Chainz show in NYC, which was hot. Consequently, Blake’s dunk is like the ASAP Rocky show a couple of days later, which had everyone in attendance forget about the show a couple of days earlier. Valid argument. And there is also a valid counter-argument. Check out the videos for yourself:

Lebron’s dunk

Blake’s dunk

Both amazing dunks that makes the viewer’s face shrivel in amazement. Needless to say both Kendrick Perkins and John Lucas III cannot discipline their children or argue with anyone, especially their spouse or partner, because these dunks will serve as easy ammunition for a quick defeat.

But are these the best the NBA has to offer?

NO WAY!

I spent some time trolling through NBA highlights, searching for the most disrespectful dunks. Without further ado, I present the Top Five Most Disrespectful NBA Dunks

5. Derrick Rose

It seems as if D. Rose used some of Chicago’s Wind to rise above the poor Suns defender. That man, Goran Dragic, the man that Rose used as an escalator, now plays in Spain. Get him out the paint!

4. Dwayne Wade

These Chicago natives don’t play! He steps over Sideshow Bob Anderson Varejao like he isn’t even there. Dwayne could have turned the other way on the baseline after the dunk, but like an animal watching its prey bleed out, he steps over Varejao as if he does not exist! Varejao instantly becomes the invisible man that everyone sees but cannot acknowledge. Rude.

3. Vince Carter

Vince is easily my favorite in game dunker! And here, he baptizes Alonzo Mourning, a verified All-Star center, into the poster kingdom, which he ruled for many high flying years. Similar to Wade, his sign of disrespect is not acknowldging that anything amazing just happened; his attitude yells, “I do this on the regular!” And he did!

2. Shawn Kemp

Kemp was Dominique Wilkins 2.0 with more money and more baby mamas. His dunks and subsequent celebrations are legendary and this video is easily his best dunk. He makes full contact with Alton Lister, yep-I know you don’t know that name, and the ferocity  with which he slams causes Mr. Lister to fall. But the pointing and taunting tho! He takes disrespect to a whole new level with this one. This should be showed at AAU games and tournaments to remind kids of what terrible sportsmanship looks like. Regardless, for our purposes, this is great disrespectful dunk!

1. Scottie Pippen

Pippen’s dunk combines all the aspects of the other dunks. He surfs the Chicago Wind against a verified All-Star center, Patrick Ewing, who like Mourning is considered one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. He absorbs full contact. On his delayed descent, he pushes Ewing, who is already falling quickly, down to the ground. As he lands, he walks over the head of Ewing, who undoubtedly saw Pippen’s compressor shorts. And though Ewing attempts to fight back as he gets up, it is too late. You’re on a poster, Ewing! Insulting. Rude. Uncivil. Bold. Disrespectful.

From a President to a Baller

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When I was younger, I did not like my name. It lacked flare. It felt old and outdated, especially since it did not match or sound like any of the cooler names that my friends had.

“What’s your name?”
“My name is Dwight, just like the president,” I learned to respond at an early age. The president was the only famous Dwight that I knew. Well, there was Dwight Gooden but I did not want people to remember my name because of a prodigy turned recovering drug addict.

I am named after my uncle, Dwight, who is named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president whose commander in chief duties ended in 1961…twenty two years before my birth and roughly thirty years before I had to find an interesting way to make my name seem cool. My mother named me after her younger brother because she has a strong relationship with him. My uncle received his name because during the early 60’s, many Caribbean mothers named their sons after popular American men. Thankfully, my grandmother did not name her son Elvis, as did many mothers at that time. In fact, my step father and my mother’s cousin (I call him Uncle), both born in the early 60s, are named Elvis. Additionally, my mother also did not want to name me after my father, Gerald, whose name eventually appeared on my birth certificate as my middle name.

When I found out this story, my name transformed. I suddenly liked it because there was history behind it. True, it does not fit the other 1980s-90s influenced names, but it is mine. It added a new piece to my identity puzzle.

Last night, while doing laundry at 2:30am, I introduced myself to a twenty-one year old aspiring model, Danielle, and the conversation went like this:

“What’s your name?”
“My name is Dwight,” I begin, before I am promptly interrupted.
“Just like the basketball player.”

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Friendship Has No Curfew

I normally do not wait until the absolute last minute to do laundry. This time was different. I procrastinated washing my clothes, each day lying to myself that I would do it after I got home from work. Each morning, I would check to make sure that I had at least one more clean pair of underwear for the following day. No motivation. Then that awkward moment when I checked and I did not have that pair. Sudden motivation. Laundry had to be done tonight.

But why tonight of all nights. Thursday was going to be a packed day; after work, I had to attend a parents’ meeting followed by a basketball game. I knew when I returned home, I would not have the energy or desire to do anything, especially laundry.

The basketball game was even more exhausting than usual because only three of my teammates showed up for the game. We played valiantly, but four against a rotating five (it seemed like they rotated a new fresh squad on the floor at every chance they could; it also helped that they had a full twelve man roster available) for an entire game was unfair, though we almost pulled out a victory.

Driving back to the Bronx with two of my teammates, my close friends, I randomly shouted with despair and disgust, “And now I have to do laundry.” My G-shock watched prominently displayed 10:35pm in the muted Ninja Turtle green light. “I got laundry to do too,” one friend responded. “So do I,” the other said.

At 11:15, we descended upon my building’s laundry room, only to find out that I could not add any money to my laundry card because the ‘add-money-to-your-card’ machine was not working. There was no way that we were going to wash all these clothes with the $0.25 displayed in that odd neon greenish blue light when I checked my balance.

When I saw that the card machine was not working, combined with the earlier lost, my emotions exploded. My face drooped to the ground, lamenting the fact that I had work in the morning and would have no clean underwear. “Man, chill. We can wash our clothes in my building’s laundry room,” my friend, who lives across the street, said in an attempt cheer me up and shut me up before I unleashed my laundry list of problems.

Long story short, we washed clothes until 1am, at which time the power in the laundry room went out, leaving my clothes with roughly 10 minutes of lost drying time. Damp clothes, added to the ‘losing list.’ Then we decided that we should get something to eat, but what would be open. Ol’ faithful…McDonalds. Though I am not a fast food fan, I knew that a McDonalds mango smoothie would brighten my night morning.

There was a problem. I was not going to drive my car. Parking in my neighborhood is like gold mining, difficult and tedious work. When one finds a spot, near the front of the building like I found that night, one does not move.

Once again, my face tethers on negative a million. Can I win at least once tonight, I yell in my head.

My friend saw my soured facial expression and quickly suggested, “We can ride our bikes.” Bless his soul for his quick thinking. Maintaining my role as Mr. Cynical Pessimist, I retorted, while pointing at my friend from Connecticut who was crashing at my spot for the night, “He doesn’t even have a bike.” That finger purposely blamed him for obstructing my ability to get some food, while the other three pointed at me for procrastinating. “Man, chill. He can use my daughter’s bike,” my friend responded. His answer made me laugh and knocked me out of the unfamiliar, uncomfortable character I was playing.

We rode our bikes to the local McDonalds at 1:30am and went through the drive thru. My friend flirted with the worker. He reassured her that we actually have cars but did not want to lose our parking spots. She giggled and said, “Sure,” without the slightest ounce of belief. We rode in a unseasonably warm fall night morning, laughing through the streets, wondering why we never did something like this during the summer, when it would have made more sense.

When I finally hit my bed at 3:07am, I thought fondly of my random night, the result of my procrastinating ways and lack of clean underwear.

Thankfully, friendship has no curfew.