I feel the step I’ve lost, especially when I’m chasing down some young kid with furiously pumping beats driving his heart, pounding the court and my older, smaller frame into meat for the grill. It’s funny to me when I think that my 42-year-old body — my grown man’s frame that is no longer lean from long-distance running — is as large as its ever been, but that’s not nearly enough next to these kids who are head and shoulders, pound for pound about to set new standards by changing the shape and texture, the sound and fury of the game.
But I can’t leave yet. I still hear the beat and feel the swing in these old bones. I see my man down in the post, another old-school player like me, working, counting out the time on his internal bass, never getting caught off beat, and then I watch him, slow and steady take that younger, faster, stronger player to the hole. He’s up and over or slipping right under him and scoring and smiling to himself as he sprints back. Take your time, he says with those fundamental moves from deep in the pocket, keep your own time.
And after the games, when we meet, the core of the quintet, either for drinks or days later with wives and families or girlfriends and whatnot, we talk, and every word, phrase, idea continues to be a riff on what we are, what we do on the court. Jazz and basketball is life. I wonder sometimes if those kids, this new generation of players on the verge of pushing us off the court, realize that.
Every once in a while, one of them will slide next to me on the bench in between games — they call me everything from “Moneybags” because I’ll pull the trigger on the three or “Safe House” because the gray in my ’fro and my goatee is starting to look a little Denzelish — and tell me they hope they’re still on the court when they’re my age. I love hearing that. It holds the years at bay just a bit and even gifts me a step or two back, for a play or maybe even a game where I’m scoring with one of the top dogs of the next generation.
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