Above the Rim

Basketball is beautiful. It really is. Even the crummy WNBA ad campaign from a few years ago centering on that concept didn’t take away the simplistic yet resonant meaning of those three words. BASKETBALL IS BEAUTFIUL.

Rustin Dodd recently listed it as the most artistic game, more aesthetically pleasing than soccer and even tennis, a game, to me, defined by the unparalleled grace of its greatest champion, Roger Federer. But Rustin is right, and I fully understood why on Thursday.

I was watching the KU-UCLA game. All my life, I’ve loved Kansas basketball. That should come as no surprise to the 13 readers of this blog. The roots of my love are superficial at best, maybe embarrassing at worst. I began loving Kansas because of the colors. My parents, Debbie and Paul Dent, introduced the concept of colleges when I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old. Kansas wore red and blue. Kansas State wore purple. Red and blue was cool. And purple sucked. I was a Jayhawk.

Not long after, I began watching the basketball games because my dad viewed every one of them (and still does) like every member of the Jayhawk family, with religious fervor. I watched Steve Woodberry and Patrick Ritchie, then Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson, then Jeff Boschee and Kenny Gregory, then Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, and then in the most recent times I watched Russell Robinson and Brandon Rush. Then I stopped.

I haven’t watched much KU basketball this year, nor did I watch much last year. That is what happens when you live in a city located far away from Lawrence. There are bars to watch it here in Dallas and ESPN3 is a God-send and good Samaritans illegally stream games on Justin.TV, but the games have tumbled down my list of priorities. The euphoria present with every dribble in Lawrence-KC fades away when you leave the city limits. Even when I watch the games, I am not watching them the same way I do at Allen Fieldhouse or in a Johnson County family room. I am watching them detached from what makes the games special.

But I did watch on Thursday. I was into the game more than most I see because it was a tight game. I even got a little angry at the missed free throws and when Tyrel Reed threw away the basketball with 13 seconds left. Then Tyler Honeycutt squared up, then the entire game depended on his shooting stroke, then it hit me.

Basketball is beautiful.

I prayed he would make it. I wanted to see the union of ball and net. I realized I love KU, but I love basketball more. Basketball is improvisational art. It is spontaneous, and the performances last for two hours, longer if we’re lucky. No single team or player can transcend the joy provided by the actual game; they only contribute to it. That is what happened when Marcus Morris lofted a Todd Reesing pass in transition to Markieff Morris, and it is what happened when Honeycutt pulled up six feet behind the three-point line with a hand in his face and made the shot all of us knew he would make and the shot I wanted him to make so he could prolong the masterpiece he had composed over the last 39 minutes and 50 seconds.

Of course, had the refs not interfered with art, I also wanted Kansas to destroy UCLA in overtime.

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