It’s May 13, 2004, game five of the Western Conference Semifinals. Lakers at Spurs. Derrick Fisher has just stunned the entire San Antonio crowd with a buzzer-beater that gave the Lakers an improbable victory. It’s a shot I have watched countless times as a Lakers fan, but only recently did I see the full broadcast of the shot. About a minute after Fisher’s miracle, the color commentator shouts into the microphone, “We love this game! We love this game!”
When I sat down to write this article, I didn’t know where to start. How could I put so much of my life into just 800 words? The truth is that basketball is so much more than a game to me. It has taught me more than anything I have ever learned in school, and it has been the greatest influence on my character up to this point in my life. It would be impossible to list all the things basketball has taught me, but I will [try] my best.
Firstly, basketball has taught me to work with what was given to me. In basketball, it is easy to focus on the traits or skills you don’t have. However, once I played the game for long enough, I realized that nobody is given everything and that I needed to play to my strengths and try to improve on my weaknesses as much as possible. I will never be able to run a 4.3-second forty-yard dash or jump forty inches off the ground. Nothing will ever change that. However, I can play to my strengths, mostly my height and frame, and I can be just as effective on the court as someone who can run faster and jump higher than I can. The beauty of the game is that for every person like me who isn’t as fast or quick, there are just as many players out there who just want to be a few inches taller or a little stronger. All great players are able to focus on their strengths on the court while acknowledging their weaknesses. Everyone is unique. As Dr. Seuss said, “there is no one alive who is youer than you!”
Next, basketball has taught me that no individual is ever greater than the team. I’ve had the privilege of playing with and against some of the best high school players in the country. I have never met anyone who is good enough to play without a team behind him. Great players are the ones who always push their teammates and themselves every day in practice, and who have their teammates’ backs no matter what. There truly is no “I” in team.
Basketball also taught me the importance of effort in everything that I do. As much as I hate to lose, it is impossible to win every single game that I play in. I used to worry for hours before every game I played about how well I would play and if we would win. A few years ago, I came to the realization that most of the things that take place during any given game are out of my control. The only things I can control on the court are my effort and my focus, and nothing else. Once I realized this, most of my nerves went away. The game was so much simpler! All I needed to do was control those two things and the rest would take care of itself. If I put in the work in and I come into the game with good effort and razor-sharp focus, good things will generally happen with much less stress.
Finally, and most importantly, basketball has taught me the importance of confidence in life. Basketball is a game where if you don’t believe you are the best player on the court, you definitely aren’t. In basketball, you don’t have time to be upset about bad plays or worry about making mistakes. On the court and everywhere else, you need to believe you are the best to succeed. My freshman year I went through a bit of a slump, and I wasn’t sure why. I eventually realized that I was thinking too much on the court, over-analyzing and worrying about making a mistake instead of just being aggressive. Once I started to realize to completely trust my own ability and skill, I improved and had a great end to the season.
It’s hard for me to call basketball just a game when it has been so much more for me. Basketball started as an innocent weekend activity, evolved into a hobby and finally, it has become so important to me that I can’t imagine my life without it. The game has shaped me, raised me, and turned me into the person that I am today. I love this game.