As my right foot left the ground and I became fully airborne (if you could call it that), my life flashed before my eyes. The basketball was in my right hand. Braces covered both knees, one ankle, one wrist, and two elbows. The headband was for dramatic effect only.
The rim should be getting closer to me by now, I thought, as I reached the peak of my so-called “leap.” The ball skimmed the bottom of the net, and in full panic mode, I began bracing for an emergency landing. Something was going to hurt in a moment.
How in the hell did I wind up here, on this vacant basketball court, with impending doom to my body imminent? Let’s rewind a few months for a proper explanation.
“What do you want to do for your 40th birthday?” asked my wife over dinner one evening.
I thought about it for a second. “Maybe BINGO at the fire hall, after the early bird dinner at the all-you-can-eat buffet?” I responded sarcastically.
What I really wanted to do, deep down inside the depths of my aging soul, was to dunk a basketball one final time. To feel the rim in my hands as the ball slides down the netting and bounces forcefully onto the ground, while I look down on the minions below me and revel in the cheers from on high.
My kids were dubious of my old tales of dunking the ball with such force that a warrant for destruction of property was issued for my arrest. It’s possible I embellished a tad.
“Where is the proof that you could jump that high, dad?” asked my kids, with mocking doubt.
“No one had a camera in their phone in 1996!” I fired back.
“Yeah, sure,” they both responded.
Granted, I hadn’t dunked a basketball in nearly two decades. Since that time, my body had been breaking down like an American car after 100,000 miles. My knee ached at the mere thought of jumping high enough. What remained undeterred was my stubborn refusal to admit that this was the absolute dumbest idea – and there have been many – that I’ve ever had.
I began doing what any responsible adult in this situation would do. I went to fourteen different doctors and a Foot Locker.
I sought medical consent. The cardiologist told me my heart was in good shape. The orthopedist told me that my knees and ankles were “good to go,” but that he’d happily perform surgery on any or all body parts that might need repair after the dunk attempt. He said this with an eagerness in his voice that made me think he wanted me to hurt myself. The podiatrist told me that my feet were “rather gross looking by human standards but should be able to perform admirably.”
Basketball shoes have really changed in twenty years. The Foot Locker employee recommended a shoe so expensive that it came with a finance plan of up to twelve months. The shoes looked cool though, and if I was going to achieve my tomahawk dunking dream, I needed to look good doing it.
I even went to the local donut shop that I frequented rather often and told them it was over between us. Jose, the innocent-looking store cashier, seemed rather devastated by it all. He offered me a farewell Boston creme. I took it, begrudgingly. You know, for Jose?
For me to gauge the level of training I would need, it was necessary to first perform a practice dunk attempt. The results were quite terrible. The ball slipped out of my hands as soon as I leapt into the air. It hit the rim above me with such force that it came straight down onto my face. I responded by crashing into the stanchion and clutching my head. No one was around to witness the fiasco, and I was more relieved at that fact than I was concerned over my cranial pain.
I would need a lot of training.
Several months passed. Neighborhood jogs past the donut shop (where a longing Jose stared through the window), stationary bike rides, weight lifting, protein shakes, and the music from the Rocky fight scenes all coalesced to create a rather dramatic effect on my body. I think I’m ready, I thought to myself.
I wasn’t ready. I missed the dunk by at least two feet and landed on the ground without the assistance of my own two feet. That’s when my life flashed before my eyes. Forty years in the span of a few seconds. I don’t remember what happened next – not the call to paramedics from the stranger walking her dog, not the ambulance ride, not even the IV of replacement testosterone administered in the hospital. It was all gone from my memory banks – and along with it, my desire to feel twenty again. The brain wants what the body can’t produce any longer.
Sometimes, it’s best to let the waves of time wash out to sea the things you once held dear. New waves bring about new things to hold dear. On that note, anyone interested in buying a pair of expensive, barely used sneakers?