Home Court Advantage

Last evening I stepped onto the basketball court within the complex I reside in, ball in hand, to do some shooting drills. I’ve been experimenting with the idea of doing this over the past week, thinking about all the precautions I need to be taking while I’m at it. Speaking to friends about the idea gave me a lot of ideas, and taking the plunge felt great. It’s been about 3 years since I last played on the court here consistently. I used to try getting up before my internship and shooting hoops each day before I went to work when I worked at a place close to home. That was good fun.

This is the first time I’ve picked up a basketball in over a year, easily. Last time I played was probably April 2019 or something, where we had the interbatch tournament at University.

Shooting around for a bit felt really good, yesterday. I instantly felt like I had lost power in my wrist, and that I had to support the ball at all times with my weaker/guiding hand. I didn’t have the range that I did earlier at all, nor the accuracy. It was just me, the ball, and the court though. With earphones on, it felt incredibly blissful. It got me thinking about all the conversations I’ve had about basketball in recent weeks.

One of my closest friends from law school circles is a prolific, passionate basketball player, who studied in Bangalore. Just last week we were talking about the tournaments we went to, and we discovered I attended a tournament he was in charge of organizing, and he came to our community to participate in the inter-community tournaments our coach used to host (you can read about those here). So we met each other in Grade 9, and then probably came within inches of meeting each other again in Grade 12, but only actually met at University, and kept in touch ever since. He’s one of the few people I talk to every day. That discovery showed me how small Bangalore really is, but also how I may have just-missed so many people in my life in the past, only meeting them when we were both at the right place, at the right time.

Standing on the court made me think of that again. I’ve met so many really cool people through basketball, and my school friends and I are close because of how terrible we were as a basketball team, but how much we enjoyed playing the sport each day. Honestly, if you saw how seriously we took our games during the PE period, and during lunch sometimes, or even when we were messing around, I don’t think you’d think we were all terrible players. It got very intense. It’s one of those memories that you know you can hold on to even when everything you’re striving for goes wrong: that if you love doing something, the results hardly matter because the journey is far more enjoyable. We won only one basketball game as a school team, in 4 years of playing the sport together. We won a medal because we got a walkover. It was honestly absurd. We complained, became unmotivated, but continued going for tournaments anyway.

The other thing that came almost naturally to me was the drills themselves. I didn’t have to think about them as much. The movement was sluggish, and the scores were abysmal, but everything felt like muscle memory. Every single movement I made, every shot I took, and every angle I stood at felt like it came from someplace wired deep within my brain. Professional athletes must feel like this every time they play a match, what with the amount of practice they put in and the number of years they’ve practised. It felt mathematical and methodical. The drills my coach taught me were based on breaking up the shooting arc into parts and figuring out exactly what angle, speed and height you had to release the ball at to get that “perfect” shot.

The reason I enjoyed this so much was that during the initial years basketball coaching was offered within my community, I was the only boy who went for classes, and the only person in the “above 10” age group. As a result, for quite some time, my drills were separate. They were things I did alone, with the coach monitoring and instructing. This was especially true after classes when coach didn’t have to rush off anywhere else. He just hung out with me, and I’d end up going home sometime only around noon, when I used to leave home at 7:30AM for tennis coaching followed by basketball. Playing alone brings that back. That comfort of knowing so much is within your control.

It was beautiful. I may not play as regularly anymore but I don’t want to forget how much I enjoy the game. I don’t want to forget how much I gained from my home court, and the kind of confidence I feel when I’m home. 

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