That guy on the left in the grainy screen grab is me, circa 2003. Back then, being the best baller I could be meant the world to me. I put in countless hours to make the best of my abilities, which I put to great use as a member of house leagues, school teams and on streetball courts around my city. Heck, I even took part in the And1 Mixtape Tour’s open run when they came to Toronto, where I got to play in front of thousands at the Air Canada Centre.
When I step on the court now, my mind still thinks that I’m 18 years old. However, I’m struggling to come to grips with the fact that my body clearly isn’t where it used to be.
In those 10 years, being the best basketball player I could be fell quite a few notches down the priority list. Chalk it up to realities that come with growing up. During that span, I gradually played less until my time on the court whittled down to virtually nothing.
I’m trying to curb that trend by playing at the local streetball court, which is a great thing overall. However, each time I do, it’s a reminder that I’m not the player I used to be. Within 15 minutes or so, I’m completely gassed, and whatever momentum I had comes to a screeching halt. Everything from that point on feels like I’m playing with an anchor strapped to my back. Once the fatigue kicks in, I can’t hit the back side of a barn because my legs have completely lost their bounce.
This phenomenon is particularly disheartening when I’m competing against teenagers in their physical prime. To their credit, a lot of the young guys that show up on this court are great players in their own right. However, I feel like my younger self would really give them a run for their money. Instead, me in my current state just can’t hang for very long and it sucks. During these times, I can’t help but think about how this would have gone down if I was 10 years younger, but it’s ultimately not worth it. What matters at that moment is the fact that I’m getting beat and there’s nothing I can do about it.
If there’s a silver lining in this, it’s the fact that I’m not beyond repair. In those first 15 minutes, I still have it in me to hit some shots and break ankles like I did in the old days. I may not have it in me to keep it going for a whole game, but making a good first impression will carry on in the mind’s of everyone else out there through the duration of the game. 2013 is probably not the year for my epic comeback, but it’s not too late to improve my physical conditioning for the future. If I really want it, I could return to form with a few solid months on the treadmill and in the gym.
For now, I feel like Al Bundy. Years past his prime, yet he still thinks he’s the same quarterback now as the one that threw four touchdowns in one legendary game. If I’m going to make this work, part of that process is going to come from physical rehabilitation. I need to lose a bunch of weight, rebuild some muscle and recapture my coordination. The other half of the equation is my mind and heart. I have to come to grips with the fact that I’m not a youngster anymore with a seemingly endless pool of time and energy. If I really want this, I’m going to have to work for it. Otherwise, I better get used to being that washed up old guy reminiscing about the old days.