Basketball brings together an unlikely duo
By Lyssa Myska Allen
He bragged about breaking ankles. He walked with a swagger and talked trash to anyone and everyone. He was mean, fast, and could rip even the best dribblers. He also taught me how to love.
We weren’t in romantic love. He was my boyfriend’s best friend, four years older than me. He was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a big brother, and he taught me everything I know about basketball. Most people would look at Jeremy’s life and see low achievement: barely graduating high school, never finishing college, not holding a steady job, fathering a child at the age of 17 and giving him up for adoption … hardly the role model for today’s youth.
Jeremy took me, a 5’9″ white girl from the right side of the tracks down to the park, where big black and hispanic guys ruled the courts. I had always played with guys, but mostly nice guys my own age, not older, tough, selfish streetball players. This was irrelevant to Jeremy as we strode onto the court together like we owned it.
So we played, and he passed me the ball, and I made shots, and we showed everyone up. Jeremy brought a lot of street credit to the court, and being with him lent me tons of credit too. No one would let a girl tag along if she wasn’t worth her weight in basketball skills.
One time, we went down to the courts and the guys only needed one spot filled for the next game. They asked Jeremy to fill it. He stopped them and said, “She wants to play too.” They fiddled a little before saying there weren’t two spots.
Jeremy shrugged and said, “I’ll wait.”
As much as he loved basketball, he loved helping me, getting me game time, and being on my team to help teach me basketball more than he loved playing.
Jeremy was my first role model. Not only did he do as much as he could for my shoddy dribbling skills, but he did everything he could for my confidence. He taught, demonstrated, watched, listened, laughed, joked … he took care of me. The lessons I learned from him, though disguised in crossovers and box-out techniques, were lessons of love and thoughtfulness.