Aging hoopers, caution

Kobe Bryant's Achilles haunts aging ballers. Thomas Beller, writing on Babble.com, tells the tale of his weekend:

The day swept on. I left to work, and then rushed over to play in the Saturday full court run at the JCC. I came late. Everyone else was drenched with sweat, tired, in a flow. If I could get loose I would have fresh legs. I was a bit tight. I ran around, did squats, took shots, and wondered when it will happen.

Athletes stop being athletes in the same way Hemingway described how people go bankrupt: “Slowly. Then all at once.”

Of course it will happen. As sure as death, for which it serves as foreshadowing, your body will break down. ...

Kobe Bryant’s career, I would bet, is not over. But one day it will be. Do these gunners, the superstars, the Jordans and Iversons and Bryants, ever go out gracefully?

The sport, for me, is like a playground, where it is often played. When you see a playground from outside the surrounding fence you see a bunch of people jumping around, huffing, getting sweaty, playing a game. Sometimes they yell and curse. It is recreation.

But when you are within the confines of the playground, the game is the world. It is all that matters. The triumphs are huge and so are the defeats. Basketball is my last drug. I can’t stand the idea that the moment will come. I almost feel like these tiny exploits, these pick-up games or league games at the JCC, or the special invite only games I sometimes play in at the Dalton gym Saturday morning, all feed into a truth that the track guy was getting at. Except the pick-up basketball artist is the only one who can transfer their myth from inside the playground to outside in the world.

I jumped around and stretched until my game got underway. As with a drug, the world disappeared The last thought I had, and this comes up often these days, was the hope that I can still really play by the time my little kids can play, too.

But meanwhile, I throw caution to the wind. I am all in. I play to win. I don’t see the point in holding back.