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More 'Bama Basketball Coverage

Big Mac and Me

By Raymond McKinnon


I love basketball. I practiced before pickup games. I played in the rain. I watched my favorite players on television to learn moves and take them to the court. Why? Debates have raged in the the field of behavioral sciences in recent years over how an adult human being grows to be who he or she is. Why is Bill Gates who he is? What fueled Jim Jones' suicidal powers of persuasion? Is it genetics? Environment? Why, after all the busted lips, bruises, torn shirts, cuts, scrapes and scratches do I, even now, keep going back to my dusty backyard basketball court of dreams? Genetics? I think not. At my best I could scrape the bottom of the rim with the whisk of a fingernail. I for years wore rope burns on the ends of my fingers trying. The classic white guy that couldn't jump. Brick? Look up the word in the b'ball dictionary and there's a picture of me beside it. The root of the love for the game I was so genetically unprepared to play? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, my childhood.
       Bicycles and bullfrogs, tree swings and swimming holes. All fond memories from my typical suburban American adolescence. The mottled shadow cast on the homemade backboard by the spotlight shining through the oak tree in our backyard. The late night games when my Dad was Shaquille O'Neal to a five year old and his infant hoop dreams. I've wondered in recent years what motivated my father to build that first goal and backboard. Was it to stop the botanical crucifixion of the dogwood I nailed that first barrel-lid ring to? Or the vision of his son shooting from the limbs of that tree? Or was he living his own private b'ball fantasy out through his son? Regardless of the reasons, the die was cast. Whether it was the thrill of shooting from my Dad's outstretched arms or the obsession with getting a shot past them, I got the fever and I got it bad. I counted down to game winning last shots. I practiced Pete Maravich style moves. I broke an ankle on a dirt court drive to the basket. (My little brother years later on the same court in a Jordan-esce running slam-dunk attempt...........with a folding chair assist, broke an arm!) I'll always regret never having played organized basketball in any form. Tough to break that southern football thing, even then. But with the foundation of those backyard dreams and the visions of Magic, Larry, Pete, and Wilt I took my game to the streets. I built the first neighborhood goal and lived for quitting time and the afternoon game. I ate cold food when I didn't heed the call to supper. (When you have seventeen in an game of 21, well, a player has priorities!) I roamed the streets of Birmingham searching for new competition literally risking life and limb. I actually remember holding animosity towards a close friend and playing partner who after getting married couldn't heed my every call to play. Why? I'll fall back on that time-honored psychologist's excuse, it's all my Dad's fault. He did it to me. He never "let" me win. He always made me earn it. The first time I heard the phrase 'no blood, no foul', it came from his mouth. He pushed me down. He picked me up. He made me want to be like Mike before there was................Mike.

       Having raised two daughters I now look back and have some small understanding of the influence we have over our children. For good or bad they're watching everything we do. Every word, every deed. I know now, without the extracurriculars my parents afforded me, just having Mom and Dad there through my childhood made me the luckiest kid on our block. My Dad didn't have to teach me to ride a bicycle, take me fishing, endure my Little League baseball, teach me to play chess (he never let me beat him at that, either) or play basketball with me. But I'm sure glad he did. Thanks Dad, I love you.


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