There I was, laying on the basketball court of 24hour fitness, drenched in sweat, out of breath, embarrassed and in disbelief. I had just gotten crossed over so bad it looked like my ankles broke as I went down to the ground. I was 18 years old at the time playing against a man named Step-Back. Step-Back looked like he was in his late 50’s and he didn’t look like much of a basketball player either. He was about 5’11 and had arms as long as the Eiffel Tower. I originally went to the gym to play basketball with my friends Dee and Jay , but as soon as we stepped foot on the court this man calls me out in front of everyone. He said “I want you with the durag, I know you don’t hoop” as he passes me the ball, all eyes in the gym were on me. I thought this game would be a cakewalk since I was so much younger and more athletic than this guy. That was not the case, every person on the court watched me get beat 7-0. In a game of 21, that’s an automatic loss. Every time he shot the ball he would perform a dribble move, step back and shoot, hence the name Step-Back. He had shot the same 2-point shot in my face 3 times in a row. Since he made the shot he got to keep the ball. His final shot he dribbled behind himself, then back between his legs, moved to his left(my right) and as I tried to move with him he bounced the ball between my legs, snatched it back with his right hand and goes left. My mind couldn’t register all of his moves that fast. I went down bad, you could hear everyone in the gym go “ooooooooh” as he ran to lay-up the ball. People were running around screaming and laughing while I was on the floor. As I get up, and attempt to shake his hand I say “good game Step-Back” and he responds “I know” and ignores my handshake. I felt so disrespected and from that moment I knew I needed to play him again and beat him, but I was going to have to get a lot better first.
The next day at school Dee, Jay, and I were talking about the game and how I couldn’t let that happen again. Dee and Jay both played for the school’s basketball team and agreed to teach me how to play. After school we went to the park, I didn’t want to run in to Step-back again and not be ready, so we didn’t play at the gym. For 3 weeks straight we went to the park and played basketball for at least an hour. In those 3 weeks, I learned how to dribble, shoot, play defense, and use my speed. The last week of training required me to play 2 games of 21 every day that week , 1 game before our practice and 1 game after . The first game was to see where I needed improvement, then we would practice and work on my flaws, then I’d play a second game to see where I made improvement. By the end of the 3rdweek I had more confidence, I was winning games and I was noticeably better than I was 3 weeks ago. I knew the next time I went to 24hour fitness and played Step-Back he was not going to beat me 7-0 again, I was ready for a rematch.
After being away from the gym for about a month Dee, Jay and I decided it was time to go back to the gym and play ball. We walked in and no one was there so we each got a ball and started shooting around. We were shooting for about 10 minutes until we heard the gym doors open, about 5 people walked in and in that group I saw Step-Back . I immediately call him out yelling across the gym “ A Step-Back ! I need my rematch”. “You came back to lose again!?” he responds. He started off with the ball. The only thing going through my head was what I had been practicing for the past month, it began to come natural. I was in the perfect stance, my feet were shoulder width apart, arms spread out horizontally exposing maximum wingspan, I was moving my arms trying to create conflict and block any lane this guy can find. As he starts to dribble the basketball between his legs I kept my eyes on him and stayed in front of him no matter where he tried to go. I could hear Dee and Jay screaming at me from the side “ Lock him down turbo!!” “Put the clamps on him!!”. Hearing them support me really gave me a boost in confidence because everything that I practiced just took over me. Step-Back ran to the left corner and shot the ball as I contested the him and stayed with him the whole time, he hit the rim and missed it. I sprinted directly across the baseline of the court to grab the rebound and I shot a 3 from the right corner. The net made the “Swish” sound and I screamed “three!”. Step-back said “oh that’s why you’ve been gone, you’ve been practicing”. I made the shot so I got the ball again, I could see Step-back was trying to play more aggressive defense on me so I had to create separation. I began to dribble the ball between my legs, I faked left and when Step-back went left I went right, using my speed I got straight to the rim and made a lay-up, the score is now 5-0. I could hear people yelling out “game point!”. I tell Step-Back to check up, he bounces the ball to me and gets right in my face ready to defend. In that moment, it came down to who really wanted to win this game. I was aiming to beat him 7-0 while he was just trying to score and play a full game of 21. Since step-back was so close on me, I did the only thing I could do. I dipped my left shoulder into him as I dribbled the ball in my right hand, running straight toward the court, I stopped and stepped-back but Step-Back kept running. It looked like I put him on skates !. I had enough separation to shoot an open game winning shot, “swoosh” goes the net and down goes Step-Back . I ran over to Step-Back and before I could tell him good game he was shaking my hand telling me “good game”.
After the game Dee and Jay seemed just as excited as me, We felt like I had won the world championship. I thanked both of them for training me and improving my skill in such a short period of time. Dee and Jay both asked “why did you tell him good game?” I told them “ I just wanted to teach him how to win with class.” I gained a true passion for basketball after practicing and getting better, it also made me a bigger NBA fan. I knew I still had plenty of room for improvement but I felt like I was on top of the world for redeeming myself. Learning to play basketball taught me that you can control how successful you are in something by the amount of work you put in. I realized that is true for almost anything you do in life, I can confidently try new things because I know practice and consistency will make me better.