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What does basketball mean to you?

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It means so little and yet it means so much.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball? I think I remember that. It was a sport once. Sounds like it will be again soon. It was more than that though and I hope it will be even more going forward.

Stepping back, as we’ve all been forced to do, has a sobering impact on our perspective. Rivalries and beefs seem silly and immature when we ponder what the human race has been put through recently. A bouncy ball, a metal rim, grown men playing a kid sport. How can we focus on that when grandpa is struggling to hold on and racial injustice tears into our hearts once again? I’m not qualified to write about such things, but they grieve my very soul. My heart is flooded with hurt to the point where it pushes out the desire to write about the silly sport I have spent so much of my life studying.

And yet I miss it so much.

Basketball is a refuge; a shelter from the storms. Anxiety, grief, embarrassment, regret, there are no easy cures for these things but somehow basketball has been a balm for all of them at one time or another. Picking up a ball and shooting fadeaways because the lines of the court are an invisible force field keeping bad feelings out. Watching highlights or looking up stats because it is a great distraction from the daily grind. Clicking on the game because the voices of Mike and Tommy feel like home.

Basketball is a community; a meeting point in the vast venn diagram of our social circles. Playing pickup with people of all backgrounds that you might not ever come into contact with otherwise. Standing shoulder to shoulder (pre-COVID) and sharing a laugh and sometimes a hug with a complete stranger at a game. Buying a round for the guys two tables over just because they are wearing Celtics hats. Connecting in deep, soul lifting ways with people you’ve only met virtually on a blog with an unimaginitive name.

Basketball is a growth mentality; a chance to learn from mistakes and grow to be the best version of yourself. A hundred thousand missed jumpshots help you make the next one. Hard lessons learned are etched in stone in the tablet of your mind. Those lessons can be adapted and applied to every aspect of your learning experience and then taught to future generations.

I don’t wish to deify the sport. It alone won’t solve the hurts we all feel. Nor do I wish to trivialize it. It helps us in so many ways. I just hope to paint a picture that others can relate to. A word or two spoken to the wind that may help someone to reconcile the same thoughts and feelings within.

I miss basketball. I miss normal. But I hope that in some way we’ll move on from this to something greater than normal. Somehow, I feel like basketball, in some small way, can help us get there.