DTLA - For most basketball players, the layup is the easiest shot possible. I’ve got a different opinion regarding the simple act of bouncing the ball off the backboard and into the hoop: It’s not a layup. It’s an adventure.

I play basketball regularly and have for years, but I still miss too many layups. It’s frustrating, like those times you accidentally walk into a door jamb and a bolt of pain shoots through your shoulder. (That’s not just me, right?) Still, when it comes to exercising, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on the court. 

When I’m running on a track, I generally think of all the other things I could be doing. When I run on the basketball court, the only thing on my mind is the people I’m playing with and where and how to move on offense and defense. I’ve got a weekly game with a group of men around my age, and it can mean playing nonstop for 90-120 minutes. Afterwards I’m soaked in sweat and my body feels like it’s been leveled by a bull. But it also feels great.

Many people refer to soccer as the “beautiful game,” but I maintain that the honor goes to basketball. Play frequently enough and you come to embrace the physical aspects of the sport, but also the mental ones. Get on the court each week and you learn that some plays depend on brute force, while others happen only with finesse, basketball IQ or a bit of trickery. Sometimes success is about speed, but it can also be about recognizing and utilizing angles. 

Play enough and you learn your “game,” and the ways you can contribute on the court. Some people can drain deep threes all day. That’s not me. Other soar high for rebounds and putbacks. That’s also not me. 

My game is about continual movement and quickness, about seeing an opening and darting down the lane, hoping a teammate will hit me with a pass for a layup. Other times I run when I don’t have to, hoping to tire out an opponent or mess with his focus. 

I can be just enough of a pest on defense to matter. Three pointers are beyond my range, but what’s important is that I’ve learned my range, and know how to sneak open near the foul line so I sink the occasional jump shot. That, of course, presumes that I remember to jump. Sometimes I get tired and am flat footed. Sometimes I have plenty of energy and am still flat-footed.

Basketball can be inexplicable. Some days I feel great before we start, and then toss up bricks all day while the people I’m guarding blow by me. But occasionally everything clicks, my rusty mechanics are magically oiled, and I’ll move easily and sink more shots than I should. 

There’s nothing like that feeling when it all works for a couple hours. It truly is a beautiful game.

Then it ends, and I need a bunch of Advil.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2019