It was a small mining town in the hinterland of Orissa. I was a young boy of nine years running after a small plastic ball. People used to say, 'you will be the next Maradona' !! Yeah, those were the glory days ;). May be if in our country there would have been a sports culture, I could have been running along with Baichung and scoring goals for the country. The plastic ball I was running after was the football for our customized game which we called "Funny football". We played it during our recess time. Why the plastic ball, coz we played it on the concrete turf of our school basketball court.
So you see I have been having an association with the game of basketball since a very long time. The "Funny football" was a very popular game in school. So during recess time and the weekly two-hours games period, all the legs would be running after the plastic ball. The kids would often get hurt falling on the concrete turf. Yet, they would put a 'hansaplast' or 'Bandaid' and would return to take revenge on the guy who gave them the bruised knee. So, the court seldom felt the bounce of the basketball. Instead, around 50 feets would be running on it on each afternoon come rain or shine. Only sometimes when our PET ma'm accompanied us, did we play basketball, trying in vain to take shoots at least upto the rim of the basket.
Thus, basketball remained a neglected sport for me. For a brief period of year or two, I completely lost touch of the game. Then around 1999, in between me watching cricket and my brother watching men swearing and jumping around a ring (WWF) on ESPN or STAR SPORTS channels, we saw giant and mostly colored men doing slam dunks. They were ads of NBA. It got us interested. The first thing about following a game is to support a team passionately. So as a first measure me and my bro randomly choose LA Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers respectively.
Thus, this time I was just an audience. Cheering the Lakers in front of the television, and celebrating every win. While my bro was singing the praise of Allen Iverson, I had Shaq O'neil and Kobe Bryant.The best part of the memory from those days was the face-off between our teams in the 2001 NBA finals. I got to celebrate the Lakers win and Shaq O'neil crowned as the MVP.
The 11th and 12th standard were the times when I was more into books rather than being on the field. Yes, I had to become something in life and of course not a sportsperson. Thus, after school I landed up in an engineering college in Jamshedpur.
Normally, there is always a dearth of basketball-literate people. Most of the people are always into cricket or football in our country. Suppose there is a basketball tournament and a team has to be formed. Since the basket is at some considerable height, the option would be to get someone tall to be in the team. Still better if he/she knows a bit of the game. My friend in Jamshedpur, Dion, too formed basketball team in college on two occasions. I was in the team on both the occasions considering I was not even an average basketball player but had the basic requirements of height and some basketball knowledge. There were speculation that my inclusion on the second occasion was to impress somebody !!
Dion gave me some basic lessons on shooting techniques, which I religiously follow to the Tee even today. Yes, try shooting with palm of one hand vertical supporting and giving direction to the ball while the thumb of the other hand forming a 'T' with the vertical palm. Then just jerk the ball towards the basket with the latter hand. Hopefully you got my description of the shooting technique. Beginners would be successful on a few occasions to get some shoots inside the basket. Keep trying.
Well I played mostly as extras, and the story continues. Last year, I played in a corporate level mixed-basketball tournament. I gave height and stamina to the team when I was in the playing five ;). We were the champions and our photo came in a national daily (City print).
Last weekend too, I got my chance to show my exploits in basketball coz there arent too many basketball players. There was an intra-office championship. The Lakers connection followed, I got into the team of Victoria Lakers. The team names were decided so as to denote the office and an NBA team (gave a feeling of basketballish I guess). The games were virtually played on a wet court with a slight drizzle. Thankfully the monsoons did not give us a downpour. This time I scored couple of baskets, it felt good. That's an achievement. Our team could not make it to the finals as we lost in the semis from a winning position.
I think the game of basketball comes back at me. So I have decided I'll try to catch all the opportunities from now to learn the game better. That's all folks.
PS: Go and watch the movie 'Space Jam'.
Below a pic of my team: