My dad went to a Division One school on a basketball scholarship. He idolized Wilt Chamberlain and almost never got off the bench for four years. He played basketball until his knees gave out when he was a little bit older than I am now, and then he kept playing it just a little more creakily and with a knee brace on - pick-up games with friends and with me even as I was less and less willing as I got older. Whenever he would walk into a high school gym - which, working in the administration of a high school, was frequently - he would wistfully make the motion of shooting a phantom free-throw from half-court, a long arm’s reach and a neat, careless wrist flick at the end, sending the ball in an imagined perfect arc to the basket, all air, nothing but net. When he lived in New York before I was born, he got his job teaching high school English partly because he could coach the basketball team. According to his own legend of himself, after work and on the weekends he would play pick-up games on the outdoor courts by the West 4th street station, and I imagine this in the saturated and fictional way I imagine all of New York in that era, the color of not quite developed disposable Kodak camera film, grainy and bursting with life. I imagine these games containing a type of joy that in my life I have rarely found an inroad to access, unafraid of people and unafraid of his own body and the two things one and the same, walking tall and sweaty off the court into the summer city, wholly sufficient in himself, every muscle singing.
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