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The Enduring Allure Of Pickup Basketball
The Enduring Allure Of Pickup Basketball
Published by Swampy Meadows
The Enduring Allure Of Pickup Basketball

BEVERLY HILLS (MI) – The beauty of basketball is in its accessibility and simplicity. All you really need is a ball and a basket. If you are by yourself, you can just shoot; if there are two of you, play one-on-one; three and a game of 21 is in order; four or more and now you’re talking some pickup hoops.

My passion.

I have covered the subject of pickup basketball on numerous occasions in my 20+ years posting here at UDPride.com. Here are those entries:

Uncle Swampy's Chicagoland Pick Up Hoops Tour




Spring Fever


Twenty One


Flyer Reunion


Pick Me Up


What Would You Do For a Klondike Bar?


A Look Back; A Look Ahead


Going Old School


Boy, Do I Miss Pickup Basketball!


For 20 years in the Nineties and Aughts I participated in lunchtime pickup hoops at the Birmingham YMCA. It was a group of mostly professional older guys–in regards to their livelihood, not their basketball abilities. That run ended for me in 2009 when I took a job in Livonia, 30 minutes away. By the time I retired in 2019 all of those guys had moved, were no longer physically able to play or in some cases had died. The lunchtime game was still a thing, but only two days a week and the guys were all way younger.

Then Covid hit.

Slowly the country recovered and eventually, so did the pickup games. The only problem is that I am now 73 years old and decidedly out of warranty. The shoulder I had scoped 25 years ago is acting up again. My Ortho doc gave me a couple of injections, but said when they stop working then it’s time for a shoulder replacement. My right knee is balky, but I have come up with a cocktail of Advil, Voltaren ointment, Salonpas patches and a knee brace that seems to keep both affected areas in check.

Ironically, neither affliction impacts my golf game at all, which is something I will resume two days a week in April when the Birmingham public courses open back up. So my thought process is this: enjoy pickup hoops now while I still can, hang ‘em up when I can’t, then stick to golf only and screw the shoulder surgery.

In my younger days I spent most of my time on the court camped out in three point land, where I was a better than average marksman. Now with the shoulder and knee to contend with, I have had to adjust my game and move inside the line.

All of which brings us to Tuesday. At Birmingham we play four-on-four, twos and threes up to 18 points. There was the usual assortment of young guys there plus my friend John, the lone holdover from the old days. Our foursome included the powerfully built Lavar, his Kobe Bryant look alike brother Jay, Rocky a sturdy rebounder and three point shooter and yours truly. John was on the other team which is always a plus as the two old dudes get to cover each other. Jay not only looks like Kobe, but shoots like him as well. He was making three pointers from all over. A pattern emerged as the afternoon wore on: we would fall behind and then Jay would start raining threes until we won.

This went on for 6 or 7 games until it was time for Jay and Lavar to leave. But before he left, Jay said to me “I bet you enjoyed that Dayton comeback, didn’t you?” I told him I have it on DVR and had already watched the last eight minutes 4 or 5 times. He said “I was watching that game and thought to myself somewhere Jim is smiling.” Since I wear UD gear of some sort every time I play there, the guys at the Y all know I am a huge UD fan.

I was about to follow Jay and Lavar out the door and started to unlace the double knots on my sneaks, when the remaining guys said they needed me to run it back, as I was the last one there. Okay fine. Rocky and I picked up Joe, a new guy and Mike, who is a high volume scorer with a variety of moves. And of course we proceeded to lose for the first time in two hours. It was 2:20 pm and the open gym ended in 10 minutes, so we decided to play one last game.

Our two squads battled back and forth and the score was 17-17 – next basket wins. The other guys decided to double team Mike to prevent him from scoring the finisher, leaving me open for a mid-range J, which I swished.

Game ender.

Day ender.

It had been a long time since I had made one of those and boy it sure felt good.

I’ll be back there again on Friday.

That’s it “From the Swamp.”
You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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