Baskebetball

Basketball is a unique game. Every sport has its features that make it a beautiful entity and source of fun, but there is nothing like basketball. First, all 5 starters on the floor for each respective team play offense and defense at the same time. There is no “Offensive unit,” or “Defensive Side of the ball” such as in football. Additionally, there the game moves at break neck pace most of the time, as opposed to a sport such as golf.

Basketball has provided me with many moments of intensity- both playing and also watching the sport. In 1994, during the NBA Finals, the Houston Rockets were playing the NY Knicks in Game 7 of the series. I particularly remember this game (Aside from the obvious win or go home nature of the game) for the fact that my neighbor Kim Kun Yang came over to watch the game with me. He specialized in the business of carpet cleaning and tree care, and had come over straight from work. He also brought a bottle of Sake. For those who live under a rock, sake is a rice based wine that one generally sips on while ingesting sushi or some other Japanese dish.

This particular NBA Finals had been the epitome of mid 90s playoff basketball. In other words it was a war! The Knicks frontline was comprised of the late Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley at Forwards, and the Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing at Center. The backcourt consisted of Doc Rivers at Point Guard and John Starks at Shooting Guard. The Knicks in those days were a very physically intimidating team- as embodied by their coach, Hall of Famer Pat Riley. Riley had coached the Los Angeles Lakers to the last 4 of their 5 NBA Titles in the 80s in the decade of the 80s.

On the other side of the hardwood, the Houston Rockets lineup consisted of Vernon Maxwell, Kenny Smith, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, Otis Thorpe, and Robert Horry. This team centered upon Olajuwon’s dominance in the middle and the 3-point shooting of the rest of team that was created via the “inside out” game that resulted from teams doubling Hakeem down low to the basket, and him passing out of these double teams to open 3-point shooters on the perimeter.

This particular game was uneventful compared to the last. In Game 6, Houston had staved off elimination, as Olajuwon had blocked John Stark’s potential game winning and championship clinching 3 at the buzzer. This final and deciding game was rather uneventful from the start. The Rockets had been in control from the start and the party had already started in Houston by halftime. My friend Kim Kun Yang, who had defected from the Orient right before the end of the Cold war was lit up like a flaming Dragon for a Chinese Celebration at the Great Wall. By halftime he had already polished off his bottle of Sake. As a Knicks fan, he had brought this bottle anticipating celebration. However, the celebration he had planned proceeded to turn into a session of yelling and screaming in his native tongue at the game on TV. That being said, this did not derail us from the great time we had watching the last game of the 1994 NBA season.

Baseball

I have played sports all my life, including many different kinds of sports. However, my favorite sport to play is baseball. While other sports such as basketball, racquetball, and football offer more contact and exercise, there is just something about the atmosphere of the game that is endearing. The anticipation of a ball hit to you at SS and turning the double play. The smell of fresh cut grass on a summer day. The crack of the bat. There is so much more to the game than just the events inside the lines. The game is a part of the American culture.

I remember one Saturday morning when I was young. I and my family got up early so we could travel out of town for an all-day tournament. We headed out to the day’s events at approximately 7 that morning. The entire trip involved me imaging myself making plays- both in the field and at bat. I had utilized this technique of self-visualization from a young age after watching and studying the method from the basketball coach Phil Jackson.

Basically, this method, derived from the Zen Buddhist Religion, involved placing yourself in situations where you succeed and playing these situations out in your head. The idea is that by visualizing success, you have already put yourself in a position to deliver and succeed before you get into the actual situation itself in real time. This can be visualizing a made 3 pointer in basketball or turning a double play to end Game 7 of the World Series or any other anticipated moment in time.

As we arrived to the field, all of my baseball senses were immediately heightened at once- the sounds of “Ice cold soda and cracker jacks” filled the morning air. The fields were being prepared with chalk lines down the first and third base lines respectively. Other teams, including mine were just arriving. Some were already there taking in the scene- like minded in purpose and symmetrically driven by the same passion for the game. All of this anticipation leading up to the official beginning to the day’s events with the declaration from the umpire of “Play ball.”

The umpire for the first game was an individual named Brian Kane. The word on the street among the people in the stands was that he had recently been released from prison after serving some time for Arson. He had been allegedly tried and convicted of burning down a local plumbing retail outlet store. He had also filmed the event and posted it on social media with the songs “When the smoke is coming down,” by the band Scorpions, and “Fuel,” by Metallica playing in the background of the documentary of the implosion. This was a mere side note to the tournament, however.

I performed well that day during the tournament. I had 8 hits, 5 RBIs, 2 Stolen Bases, and played well defensively at both SS and CF over the course of 5 games. Our team went 4-1 and placed second in the tournament. I left the tournament with many great memories and anticipated my next tournament the weekend to follow.