Basketball, it was one my middle name

Waddup, schmackos, it’s story time … brace yourself. Yeah, I’ve decided for the next little while I’m going to write some flashback stories, some tales about life pre-illness. I like dwelling in these places sometimes, it’s nice to reflect on the times that were much more simple and straightforward. And fun. I used to smile a lot and I used to be a bit of a ratbag too.

Now, I’m sorta itching to write a story about the television show X-Files (trust me there’s a bit to it) but I’m gonna save that until tomorrow. Instead and obviously for today, well, I’ve decided to write a story about something else that’s been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about my old basketball life and specifically about how much of my life was consumed by this sport. And yup this is one of the things that would bring a huge smile to my face. Draino… I loved smashing 3s.

Whether it was shooting hoops with my high school classmates at lunch, a team practice, even playing one of the three proper games that I did every week, I just loved being a part of the game in whatever capacity. Heck, I even collected basketball cards (which I still have and are probably worth a fortune today) – so dorky. But basketball, my draino days, it was almost part of my identity (and if I hadn’t got sick I’m sure it still would be today). I’m sure I’d be coaching kids, that’s for sure.

Oh fun fact: I even remember waking up at all these crazy stupid times to watch the American NBA, as this was the only time they’d show it here in Australia (back then). But the coolest thing of all, at like 4 stupid o’clock on several days, there I was sitting on the sofa watching the Dream Team (the American team for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, still dubbed to be the greatest team of all time) and I watched pretty much all of the games live.

I remember it so clearly. Total domination, and I gained even more respect for Michael Jordan, became a superfan of John Stockton, and totally flipped my opinion on Charles Barkley the “unnecessary” bully. Yeah, I became quite the superfan of David Robinson too, or even more so – talk about a stacked line-up. But the game that completely blew my mind (and I remember watching it live with my mum), it was the Dream Team versus the Australian Boomers. Soooooo good, for me this was like one of those fantasy sports matches. I’ll say it again, mind blown!

Yeah, nah, okay fun fact number two. So, I also used to go and watch a fair few of the national games live as well, this leagues was called the NBL. From when I was very young (say about ten), one of my best mates his cousin was a benchwarmer for the North Melbourne Giants, so we’d go to see them play. I absolutely loved going to these games. Yet, I was always conflicted in barracking for the Giants, you see, the home team from the stadium where I always played was the Nunawading Spectres (which both teams were rivals), bloody hell. And geez, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many of the Spectres regional games I watched, always sneaking in for free (because I knew the right people), haha.

Anyway, about five years later (when I was in my mid-teens), the Giants and Spectres teams merged in the national competition, so they created this team called the South East Melbourne Magic. I actually went to quite a number of the Magic’s games, with corporate passes as well (so I got to meet all the players several times, etc). Still, even though you’d assume I’d be happy with my two favourite teams merging, well it was actually the opposite. I was pissed off that I’d lost my emotional connections, I saw it as a bit of a business power play (as this was my first real exposure to any of the politics behind the sport), so I completely revolted and started following the Melbourne Tigers. The third main Melbourne team.

This mid to late 1990s era though, in my eyes, this was without doubt the golden era of Melbourne basketball – you could possibly even say worldwide because of the reigning Chicago Bulls dynasty. In fact, though out this era, it was like every second person on the street was wearing a basketball jersey. Shaq’s Orlando jersey was probably the most popular. The game had become so huge, so bandwagon, so thank goodness NBA games started being replayed here on the tele at reasonable times. Plus, in the Australian national league, the Tigers versus Magic rivalry had really blown up – and for several years both teams were consistently fighting for the top spot on the ladder. I even remember going to some of the grand final series matches between these two teams… ahh-mazing. Gaze to Copeland… alley-oop… boom!

Nevertheless, within this same era (and something that is an awesome memory for me), it’s about a a specific team that I was involved with at the time. It was our Friday night team, we were together for about two years (though some of us had been together for about five years), and I’m pretty sure this was for the U16 and U17 age groups. But you know – yep cliché city – but when a team just clicks (or I hope you’ve been lucky enough to have this experience as well), but it just makes the game so much better. Well, this was this team. 7.10pm, Court 4 at Nunawading stadium (weird fact, and on Saturday’s I almost always played on Court 2), but oh man these Friday night games were the thing I most looked forward to every week. Draino. I’ve actually kinda kept in touch with some of these blokes even up until today, pretty cool. I always loved the comradery within a basketball team.

But yeah, these days, not being able to play the game that was once so much a part of my life, it definitely sucks. A few years ago I even started going to Melbourne United games (funnily enough a team that resulted from a merger with the Tigers), but none of this has ever felt the same. Maybe it’s all these mergers, maybe it’s my frustration coming from my disability, but yeah I miss the good old days.

Walking between the courts at the stadium, seeing who’s playing, saying gidday to all my mates. I knew so many people up there (and I was up there all the time), mainly because my part-time job was refereeing. Still, looking back on all this (despite my feelings being so mixed about the game these days), geez I’m so thankful I had the experience of living this jock life. I know, who knew right? I was once a sporto! Love!!

About Mark

For all things a day-dreamer, a larrikin and an undeniable fighter. Mark advocates for both Adversity and Lyme Disease; and boasts a real passion for green living, nutrition and organic foods. Oh and he's a quadriplegic too. This spirited life coach, with prior background in marketing & advertising, now has more recent aspirations that include becoming a published author, and a business owner too. And when well enough, Mark’s also ticking off his bucket list, and he also volunteers with the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Mark is an ACIM student, an adventurer, and a sneaker collector. His dream is to one day get better and ride a bicycle around Australia.

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