During the inauguration hoopla, I read that Michelle Robinson Obama, back in Chicago in the day and before she had been too very long originally dating Barak, asked her brother to play basketball with him and give a report. The thinking was that if Obama had genuine character flaws of any kind they would probably surface in a pick up game. I think that is a sort of street smarts; I like the idea. The idea that you study a person this way - it's almost Shakespearian to ask your brother to run the ploy. With that in mind I asked old buddy pick-up game all stars of yore for their take on suspect traits in a pick-up game player - traits that could divulge deep inner traits of character - ugly ones - ones you wouldn’t want to endure for a lifetime. How did they gauge other players? I invited my b-ball buds to forward the question to their team mates too.
Jim Haas says ...
Allright jack, you're talking to a hoop fan and a player. I try to watch every Warriors game, in spite of their record and play two hours of full-court each Wednesday night in what we call "the geezers league". Playground ball comes on the weekends.
What I find objectionable is a player who hogs the ball and feels he has to take a disproportionate number of shots - even if he's good and he makes a high percentage. That's not why the rest of of us are out there, to watch some other guy crank up his jump shot the whole time. We want in on the game too! Seems to me that someone like that has an inflated view of his own worth: the kind of person who is often blind to his defects and is oblivious to the talents or needs of others. In other words: an egotistical son of a bitch and I don't like him!
Another thing I don't much care for is serious trash-talking. But then, I don't really encounter it amongst the people I play with. Seems to me so very childish, unless it's done in a "friendly rivalry" sort of way. If someone I don't even know were to openly put me down for doing the best I can on the court or because they're better than I am, I feel it says a lot more about them than me. "Insecure"..."feelings of inadequacy"...even "malevolent" all come to mind. In fact, come to think of it, many years ago when my boys were probably 8 and 10 years old, we three were challenged to a playground game by a trio of 12-13 year olds. They could play and were beating us pretty handily - which was OK. We were having fun and getting exercise. But then they started taunting. After a while I took umbrage and decided to pass less, crash the boards more, defend harder and essentially drive to the basket right through them. It didn't take long before they felt threatened and stormed off retaining their bravado, calling out names and insults from a safe distance. When one finally yelled "suck my dick", I maturely came back with the rejoinder of a lifetime: "I would if you had one" (...wait a second, that's not how it was supposed to come out!)
Oh yeah, one more: the player who gets frustrated and as a result intentionally fouls hard or sets a pick with a fullback's block - more often than not it's the guy who weights 220 pounds, too. Gotta admit I'm not very fond of that. As seen in the previous paragraph, this can lead to unpleasant and regrettable results. I think such a person could use a little anger management and is unlikely to have the tenacity to remain steady in the face of adversity.
Running the ship of state or shooting hoops - it's all about the same human foibles and capacities. Michelle was right in looking for a team player, one with smarts and game as well.
(Drawing above by Jack Vaughan and Jacob Vaughan.)