Slam Dunk

One of my all time favourite anime is the Slam Dunk series by Takehikoe Inoue, I think that’s his name, from memory. For those uninformed, it was a comic based on the high school basketball in Japan revolving around the life of a certain red-haired student who just picked up basketball, Sakuragi Hanamichi.

One of the reasons I liked the comics was perhaps I just picked up basketball as a sports myself in secondary school. I was never an athlete nor athletic, thus I have excessive weight and have very poor stamina. Thinking back, I thought I did pretty okay for height, I think I was measured at 160 cms at 13 y/o, roughly around the time I started bouncing the ball on the concrete court. Unfortunately, that’s just about my maximum height, as I stood currently at 168 cm at 24 y/o. Darn.

Anyway, when I first played basketball, I was one of the taller and bigger guys, suited to play inside the triangle, near the basket, taking advantage of height and size to overpower opponents under the basket. I was pretty much a dominant albeit clumsy inside player. At one point in time, I thought I might be able to grow tall enough to dunk. In fact, I used to dream of doing it one day and I think I still do, only if there’s a way to overcome the physical limitations, (read: weight and height) However, as the years go on, my peers start to catch up with my height, as I stood pretty idle at my height. Thus, I was “forced” out of the triangle, playing further and further away from the basket. Some might say it was pretty cruel, some might say it was necessary if I wanted to continue playing for my team. My shot used to be so bad, that almost everytime I shot, my opponents would pick up the ball under the basket, or behind the backboard. It was that bad.

Despite that, I continued working on my shot. My accuracy improved, my range increased. Come to think of i,I was really a basketball fanatics. Literally breathed and talked and dreamed about it, all the time. In fact, I sorta kept a little bit of statistics in my mind to see how well I was doing.Maybe not, maybe because you sorta roughly know yourself when you practise all the time to better yourself. I’d rate myself as a 80% free throw shooter and a 40% 3 point shooter. I read that you gotta minus 20% from those figures in competition. There you go, not really something good to be proud of but I was pretty happy with my progress.

During those years in secondary school, I got my friends  joined the basketball club. We had a little bit of “training” if you can call it for we are not a traditional basketball school. My school was probably the undisputed king in Johor in soccer and hockey. I meant “training” for we sorta picked up and improved our games based on inputs from seniors and more experienced players. There was never a qualified coach. As I wasn’t good in any aspects of the game, I followed the “training” to the core. I’d say we have pretty average skills in basketball but never the physical conditions to complement them. Thus, most of the time, we were doing PT,which I am okay with but hated by my friends. Okay doesn’t mean I am good in it. I am always the one suffering from cramps and exhaustion. The “relatively” intense training was probably the reason a lot of my friends left the game. I know a lot of people wanted to learn how to shoot better and dribble and “break people’s ankles” and impress (taken to mean, you can dribble so well, that the defender broke his/her ankle trying to catch up with you) but I’d say you can’t do nuts if you can’t run and keep up.

Despite that, I was not prepared for what I’d see my friends who got into the school team would do in the first MSSD basketball competition I’ve seen. MSSD is the inter-school competition to choose the district representatives. It was a round robin format in the first round before knock-out in the final 8. Anyhow, we were drawn against one of the “traditionally” stronger school in basketball arena. That was back in 2002, I think. Some of the seniors players did not even turn up for the game for it was perceived as a lost cause. I remembered it pretty clearly. And my friends whom I thought were pretty good themselves would give the other team some sort of challenge, perhaps surprising the senior players who thought it was a lost cause. Perhaps,now some of you might understand why I tend to associate with Shohoku in the comics so much.

The match? Ended 99-11. My school and my friends who were in the team were thrashed so badly. The lack of proper training really told. Pickup games is different from a real competition. The other match? I can’t remember the result, perhaps still shell-shocked from the first thrashing. Another thing to mention is that the school’s basketball club was left in quite a shamble. We only had enough school jerseys for six players. Some of the seniors who had left the school had taken the jerseys with them. Fortunately, we had one of the more dedicated senior who succeeded as the club president to put the club back on its track. This was the guy, who probably loved the game more than I did, Khoo M.S. We called him “muka penget” for his long face.Hehe. He was so into it that he went on and be a MABA-certified referee. I think he was one of the referees invited to referee at SUKMA or SEAGAMES. He did try,albeit unsuccessfuly to coax me into refereeing as a part time job. Anyhow, thanks to this guy, the bunch of us had a little bit of “proper training.” It was better than nothing.

I did my best to help him as well, you know, trying to relive the romance in the Slam Dunk comic. We patched up the school basketball court, for the PIBG was pretty reluctant to hire the repairs. It was really hard work. Hmm….I am starting to recall the friends who I’ve called in to help us out, those that had nothing to do with the basketball club. True friends indeed. For I still remembered the sun we have to work under, it gave me a pretty bad sunburn. I think probably from that point onwards,I have decided I can never work as a labourer. My parents were not too happy when they found out what I did, as in, it wasn’t my job. Hehe…despite that, they’d still fetch me to school roughly 30 mins drive away, to patch up the court. We also fixed the backboard and the rims and nets, all using the what little-left-of-the-money from the club and chipped in by my friends. I think if I go back now, I can probably still see the “marks” I have left in the school. The patched up basketball court and the rims.

Ahh….memories. Maybe I shall write about the U-16 competition and more about the MSSD competition and perhaps in university another day. Or I have mentioned here already. Never mind. Lest we forget.

Arrivederci.