the peach basket

poets on basketball

All Parts at Once

Now he and I are watching some men with a ball. No matter the shape or size of the ball, what team or for what country the men fight. The TV is showing the men with a ball so we’re watching.

— Why Did I Ever, Mary Robison

An anomalous NBA superstar
is headed to brunch
I am thinking of him at 12:28
not yet dressed for the day
I am thinking of him
as he will be tonight
and tonight I am
thinking of him too
as I watch him on TV
but for now I am still undressed
brewing coffee and trying
to estimate the temperature outside
based on the people at the bus stop
what they are wearing
and it is hard to say what he is doing ever
this anomalous NBA superstar
other than waiting in static air
for what he will be tonight
when I will see it and I will know
At brunch people recognize him
but not for what he is
or will be
tonight he will be
an exact idea of himself
as he drifts through the air
and hangs in the air
while stabbing the air
the dunk as an afterthought
and this is the idea I have of him
as a fan, which is Latin
for student many times removed
or, more literally, distance scribe
but for now he eats his eggs
deviled without yolks
in his sweatpants
and I drink too much coffee
until my stomach burns
and try to imagine
Latin as a language
try to imagine all parts
of the anomaly at once
It’s hard to see
what happens next
only that tonight
he will either excite or disappoint
and either way it will be both
For the rest of the day
everything is on the table
I put on a shirt and pants
The anomalous NBA superstar
uses his napkin to wipe his mouth
and leaves a tip
he will not worry about later

—Frank Basket

Old Times

We know of animals that walked the earth
and ruled it hundreds of millions of years.
I learned about them from colorful books
I read in my room when I was a kid.
In the light in the morning I would lounge
around and make some weird discoveries.
At night I’d fall asleep listening to
Johnny Most screaming on the radio
and dream I had Danny Ainge’s guard spot
in the Celtics’ lineup. Backdoor passes
got me easy buckets. I found McHale
in the post and I watched him go to work.
I’ve always conflated all of these things
sleeping as I have been for all these years.

— The Buzzard

Watching Mavericks-Pelicans at the Redwood, 2/26/14

A bowl of chili is five dollars extra.
My ears are weird from air travel.
I’ve been in this bar for five minutes
And for many nights many years ago.
Once a woman W. and I
Had a crush on came in wearing
Leather pants and we both knew
The infatuation was over. I wasn’t
Arrested Tuesday, like Raymond Felton,
And on Wednesday I flew. It’s still
Wednesday. I tell myself the beer,
My first Manny’s in three years, helps
Me understand the game. Dirk Nowitzki
Needs no understanding. The team sport
Of basketball is a game of ribbons.
There’s a bottle of magic behind the counter.
I’m too scared to ask the bartender
What it does. My ears are still weird.
I might be shouting when I speak
ANOTHER MANNY’S PLEASE
And the ribbons unspool.
A girl in the booth behind me
Tells her friend about a book she lost
In a break up. Numbers continue
To hurt me by meaning more than me.
How late will I be up tonight? The
Bar is lined with shotgun shells under
Glass. The game plays out. It is
Meant for what it’s meant for. Monta
Ellis hits a three. An alley-oop is
Misunderstood into a turnover. Dirk ages
Like wine. An Outkast song follows
A forgettable song. Night is hovering,
Threatening. The faces I know are not.
They are spread throughout the city.
One face I know kisses another.
In the city this is possible.
And then later in the city
I see two ladies and a man
Wave down a taxi across the street
And for a second they are waving at me.
And then later in the city I look
Back at this poem and have no idea
What I am talking about.

— Frank Basket

A Peach Basket Valentine

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It is Valentine’s Day in kindergarten and I give
heart-shaped lollipops to every kid in my class and
kids in my class give me heart-shaped cards and
pieces of candy. Then I am in sixth grade and someone
draws a heart on torn-out notebook paper and hands it
to someone else who blushes like he is chewing
a glowing heart and his cheeks are made of paper.
Then it is summer and a girl on a bus is making
a heart with her hands as the bus pulls out and a boy
next to me is sniffling a little and also making
a heart with his hands and I am rolling my eyes. Then
it is Valentine’s Day again and I get you a box of
chocolates in the shape of a heart and you have sex
with me. Then I am thirty and regretting the heart
tattoo on my arm, but I decide to give it another
chance. Then in the nursing home we play hearts
and you let me win. Then it is Valentine’s Day again
and we give each other cards we made in the shape of
hearts and the staff hands out heart-shaped cookies,
then my heart gives out and I get nothing in return.
There is a lesson here, but I am too dead to learn it.

A Plea for the Dunk Contest

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When I was a kid, the most important night of my year was NBA All-Star Saturday night. It’s tempting to suggest that this would have been the result of having rooted for lousy team, but the truth is that in the late 80s and early 90s, the Celtics were still pretty damn good. The truth is that when I was a kid, this shit felt like it mattered.

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It doesn’t feel that way anymore, and I can’t help wonder why. My sentimental choice for best dunk contest of all time is the 1990 affair (‘Nique over Kenny the Jet in the final). The defending champ was Kenny “Sky” Walker, who did this ridiculous cradle-dunk thing I had never seen before. It was the first time I had ever seen Shawn Kemp, and his second dunk—this little stealth mission—basically melted my brain. The 1990 dunk contest also included Scottie Pippen, Kenny Battle, Billy Thompson (who dunked two balls at once in the first round!), and the immortal Rex Chapman.

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If you’re counting, this means the 1990 dunk contest included one of the 50 greatest players of all-time (Pippen), one of the consensus best players in the league (Wilkens), and a bunch of other dudes who were really good at playing basketball. The occasional Blake Griffin, Amare Stoudemire, and Dwight Howard aside, this just doesn’t happen anymore. Or whatever, maybe it does. That’s not the point.                                                                                                                                       image 

Paul George participated in the dunk contest in 2012, a pathetic joke of a contest in which NBA nobody Jeremy Evans managed to take home the title. Paul George called that contest “a joke” at the time, and has recently declined to participate in this year’s. That’s the same Paul George who in the intervening months and years has become probably the third best basketball player in the world, the same Paul George who just did THIS SHIT a couple weeks ago.

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The dunk contest, of course, has sucked for many years now. PG was kinda right when he called it a joke. There’s a lot of corporate bullshit, and it’s extremely jarring if you go back and watch the 1990 contest from start to finish when you notice that for some strange reason everyone is, yes, having a good time, but also taking this thing seriously.                              image

I don’t think players should dunk in the contest if they don’t want to, and I’m not one of these people who wants to boost the incentives in order to get guys to participate. Everybody can make their own decisions, and after I’ve said my little piece here, I’ll stay out of it. Listen, if you are Paul George, and it’s not important to you that your career’s CV includes a line about winning the dunk contest, that’s absolutely your prerogative. I get it, and I know that if a guy like PG got hurt in the dunk contest it would feel like the stupidest thing that has ever happened.

I also happen to believe that somewhere in the recesses of his heart Paul George gives a shit about the dunk contest. Forget Paul George. You’re telling me that LeBron didn’t watch the dunk contest when he was a kid? He didn’t flip out with everyone else when Vince Carter was killing everything in 2000? He didn’t wonder when Isaiah Rider pulled off the East Bay Funk Dunk in ‘95 whether he’d ever be able to do that shit too?                                                                                                                                 image

The dunk contest sucks now because everyone knows that the dunk contest is a joke. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make a difference who the best dunker in the league is anymore. But I’m telling you, this shit used to matter. Jordan and Wilkins each won the thing twice, and you had better believe they both think they could have had another one. It’s like anything else, the economy, gravity, whatever, I don’t know. It’s all a total fucking illusion, but it matters because we believe in it. Paul George nearly broke the internet when he ripped that 360 against the Clippers a couple weeks ago, but watch that video carefully. No one is near him. Why did it matter to do that? It mattered because there is joy in physical expression. It mattered because of the magical aesthetic potential in the physical action of sport, and the dunk contest is our pathetic, little way of trying to distill that feeling into something that lasts so that we can say, “I watched Paul George do that dunk, and it changed my fucking life.” In his essay, “Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Street,” Edwin Denby writes, “There is nothing everyday about art. There is nothing everyday about dancing as an art. And that is the extraordinary pleasure of seeing it.” Please make the dunk contest matter again. I’m trying to find something I’ve lost.

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—The Buzzard

Sources: Suns Heed Caution on Gasol’s Injured Manhood

LOS ANGELES —  As the Lakers and Phoenix Suns engage in a fresh round of trade discussions Monday focused on four-time All-Star center Pau Gasol, sources have told The Peach Basket that, while there is substantive interest on both sides, it’s believed Suns officials want to see how Gasol recovers from the injuries Kobe Bryant has inflicted on his manhood before proceeding.

Gasol noted on his Instagram page that he’d received a PRP injection on his groin on Monday.

"Today I got a PRP shot to help the healing of my groin injury," Gasol wrote on Instagram. "I will work hard to be back with the team as soon as possible."

After averaging a robust 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January, Gasol is expected to miss the next three games with the groin injury, which the Lakers do not regard as serious, but which Kobe Bryant, whose proclivity to motivate through fear is well-documented, considers very very serious.

"He’s soft,” Bryant has said in countless ways, in what might be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When asked about playing with Kobe, teammate Steve Nash had this to say:

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—Frank Basket

Pacers’ Stephenson ‘Mad’ About Birthday Party Snub

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Lance Stephenson is adamant his performance this season for the East-leading Indiana Pacers warranted an invitation to local boy Billy McMannis’s ninth birthday party.

Stephenson may have reason to be mad at his exclusion from the cowboy-themed birthday. The Pacers’ guard ranks sixth in the conference in sharing.

"I’m mad. I feel like I had my breakout year last year," Stephenson told reporters after practice Friday, according to The Indianapolis Star. "I showed I can play with anyone. 

"But other people saw it differently. I’m just going to keep working hard and prove everyone wrong."

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he was happy with how Stephenson responded a day after the news.

"He’s not verbally saying it, but I could tell he was hurt a little bit," Vogel said, according to The Star. "But he came in and had great energy in practice today, great positive energy. He can move on and hopefully go on a tear."

At one point Friday, during the portion of the practice open to the media, team president Larry Bird stepped onto the court and patted Stephenson on the back, according to The Star’s report.

"It’s hard," Vogel said. "It’s something he deserved and he wanted it, so it’s tough. You just do what you can. You squeeze him, you hug him a little tighter and make sure he understands how important he is to us."

Teammate Paul George, who received his invitation personally from Billy’s mother, echoed Vogel’s thoughts.

"We all feel for him," George said, according to The Star. "We’re all upset for him."

Mrs. McMannis could not be reached for comment.

— Frank Basket