When I played basketball

Yep, I got hoop dreams. They happen while I’m sleeping. Usually, I’m playing for Indiana U., my beloved hometown Hoosiers.

In my unconscious hoop dreams, everything I’ve learned about basketball flows through my veins easily, smoothly, naturally. I’m in a Kobe-Jordan zone. I’m Magic. I’m unstoppable.

I grew up in a basketball family. Fathers, brothers, uncles. People in Indianapolis knew us a ballers, past and present. Is it any wonder I can ball so well in my sleep?

Awake, basketball is more complicated. There’s the shit that happens off the court, the shit that fucks with your mind. However I did have my moments on real life courts.

My first memorable milestone: scoring six whole points in a game when I wasn’t much older than six. I was so excited after the third basket, the ref threatened to hit me with a tech if I reacted that way again.

Later, I played on a junior-AAU-type all-star team that traveled to Illinois and won a regional tournament. I was around age 12 and the big man. In the semi-finals, I scored a career high 17 points and had a ton of rebounds. Dare I say, I dominated?

I was named to the all-tourney team, my first and only individual honor in ball. Next, we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, and played at UK’s old Memorial Coliseum. We didn’t fare so well in the national tourney, but the experience of playing in a college arena as a kid was unparalleled.

9ea02-jr485122010_0182Next step: starting for my junior high team at a mostly white private school, no less. Like the main character in my fourth novel, Walt Loves the Bearcat: “I was the player who started but was his team’s equivalent to the underachieving big man on an NBA team with two stellar athletes who also happened to be black at my 99.99% white private school.”

For ninth grade, I returned to the public school system, but my privatized, confused adolescent self was not prepared. The ninth grade coach wanted me on the team, but in my young little mind, I had to make a choice: play sports or be a fag. I chose the option that was choosing me.

By the time I got to high school, the high school athletes saw me as a nerd, a brainiac, a fag. In retrospect, I was all those things, but so the fuck what? I still should’ve had the right to ball and be me.

In truth, I did have the right. I just didn’t know it or have to guts to exercise it in the mid-1970s.

Makes me wonder: how might my high school teams have benefited from having a six-foot-three, 200 pound black athlete like me, no matter my sexual orientation? A black athlete who’s smart and knows the game of ball inside/out?

A friend from high school who played sports recently told me about a comment his jock friends made to him while we were all in high school: Why are you friends with Boyd? He doesn’t play any sports?

Perhaps my friend knew something those guys still don’t know: Boyd is a good person, and if you take the time to get to know him, not only might you see that good person, you just might benefit from having a good teammate who can help you win.

Later in life, I did exercise my right to hoop while being homo. Played in the company league at Walt Disney in my twenties. Started every game for the league champions one season. Scored a new career high 21 points during another season.

In my thirties, I played in a couple of gay leagues and gay basketball tournaments. What I lack in skill I make up in basketball smarts. And I’m very proud of my left hand’s ability to block shots seemingly out of nowhere.

Now in my forties, I like to shoot hoops just for fun. Not many actual games, just shooting around. The goal is exercise and fun. Oh, and to see if I can mimic any of the moves in my unconscious hoop dreams.

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