I was a skinny five-year-old with dark skin and coal black hair. I can still recall my exact words on that smothering hot day. I looked my mom right in the eye, and said with much assurance, "Mom, when I grow up I wanna be He-Man, and live with you and Dad forever." After I was teased with many jokes, I decided to find a new career choice.
My second oldest sister, Danae, is partly responsible for the new direction my life would take. She was an avid basketball player and I always wanted to be like her. We were sitting side by side in front of the TV on a deathly freezing afternoon. Watching the Chicago Bulls play the Detriot Pistons, I saw something that would affect my whole life. Michael Jordan. He was so smooth as he split defenders, ran the floor, and shot jumpshots. It was unlike anything I had ever viewed in my short life.
When the game was over I jerked my coat out of the closet, put on gloves and anything that would keep me warm. Waddling out the door I grabbed my basketball and headed to our basketball court. With snow on the ground and ice on the rim, I proceeded to shoot basket after basket. An hour went by before my fingers were numb, my face was frozen, and my nose dripping. Mom tried getting me to come inside by yelling, "You're going to freeze out there." But that didn't bother me, I continued to shoot as if nothing was wrong. The challenge of putting the ball through the rim intrigued me so much I almost couldn't stop.
Following the brisk winter and soggy spring came the summer months. I relished the warmth and dryness by going to my dirt court to shoot baskets. The rusty red court would show through the beaten-down, dead grass. I had an old four by four feet plywood backboard with an iron rim that had already held thousands of shots. Every one I took knocked cracked paint chips from the backboard, and the rim would make a clank that could be heard for miles.
My court was my refuge for many years, providing hours of entertainment, better than any TV show. During those hours I became a compulsive player and a dreamer. I would imagine splitting Joe Dummars and Isiah Thomas, dribbling around Vinny Johnson, and floating a beautiful behind-the-back-pass to Michael Jordan for a game-
I am now seventeen years old and still addicted to basketball. I have a new dirt court, backboard and rim, which absorb the shots in my playing craze. My old dirt court is covered with a diesel fuel tank, oil barrels, and horse weed. The grass has covered the dirt and the diesel fuel and oil has made portions pitch black. Every once in a while I will sit down on the old dirt court and reminisce. I still miss my old dirt court; it's responsible for igniting my desire to play basketball. l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.