Though I now love basketball as an adult, I wasn’t into it at all as a child. In fact, I didn’t really start playing basketball until I entered seventh grade. I’m guessing a four inch growth spurt (also, my last growth spurt) prompted this interest in the sport.
I liked it a lot, more than football, but had some catching up to do with the guys who played in the youth programs. Luckily, I was from a small town, so if you tried out for the team … you were pretty much on the team.
Seventh and eighth grade basketball treated me well. I wasn’t anything better than average, but I learned a lot about the sport and, even more importantly, had a great time.
By ninth grade, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I still wasn’t anywhere close to being the star of the team, but I regularly did particularly well on the “B” team, so I thought I still had plenty of room to improve, and I believed that I would improve.
With my confidence soaring, I once made a play that I thought was inspired, efficient, and full of style. My coach completely disagreed. Thankfully, this all happened at practice.
I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I somehow gained possession of a loose ball while playing defense. I remember I had to chase it down and bend over to retrieve it. I knew members of my team were already fast breaking to our basket. Sure, I could pick the ball up, turn, and then thrown it down court to them, but that would waste precious seconds, seconds that would allow the defense time to catch up.
In perhaps one of the most ingenious moments in basketball history, I figured out how to bypass those three wasteful moves into one economical motion that would surely result in two points.
I bent over to grab the ball with both hands. I spread my legs nice and wide. And then, with the efficiency of an NFL center and with my butt facing the basket in which we wanted to score, I launched the ball with both hands right between my legs to the lead fast breaker.
I’ll never know if my teammate scored because I stopped watching him when I heard my coach scream, “AXLE!”
A quick side note: My coach called me “Axle” after the character “Axle Foley” from Beverly Hills Cop. Remember, this was all happening in the early ’90s. I kind of liked the nickname. “Axle” always sounded pretty cool. Of course, looking back, I’m pretty sure half the time he wasn’t actually saying “Axle.” Apparently, my unorthodox methods often befuddled him.
Coach had a brief chat with me about my pass. He said something along the lines of, “I never … ever … want to see that again. … Ever.”
I’ve watched a lot of professional basketball since that moment. I’ve loved the NBA, and, more specifically, the NBA playoffs, since ninth grade. In all the games I’ve watched during the last thirty years, I can attest that Coach was right. I’ve never seen that pass executed by, well, anyone.
To this day, though, I maintain that it was a brilliant pass. I hit my breaker right on the money. Sure, it looked silly, but it was so efficient.
Man, I loved basketball.
Maybe I should have played past ninth grade.
Maybe one day I’ll tell you why I didn’t.
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)