Honestly, there are few things that feel better than dribbling a basketball. Very few…and those are all outside of basketball. It seems natural: Basketball in hand. The basketball pounding against the gym floor. The sneakers squeaking. On the court, it’s art. Dribble low. Dribble high. Fast. Quick. I know it sounds corny, but for me it’s true. I could be in the gym for hours, and do nothing but push the rock through drills.
When I was younger, my emphasis in high school was ballhandling. It came at the perfect time too. I needed it. In the eighth grade, I was about 5-11, nearly six feet tall. I was the tallest kid on my middle school team, and nearly the tallest on my AAU team, spending the majority of my time in the high post as a four man. I could handle the rock, but had never played on the perimeter.
After my school season ended in March, three months later I was suddenly playing in summer leagues for my high school. I went from looking down at damn near everyone to being middle of the pack, from the paint to the wing, from rarely ever shooting a three to standing out behind it on an island. I went from being a lanky big man to a two guard. I always had range for a bigger player, but ballhandling wasn’t something I worked on consistently. It was slightly uncomfortable at first. Luckily for me, I loved the game enough to be in the gym three hours a day and soon enough, I was fine.
The YMCA I used to go to was relatively new. No one knew about it. It was small, but had built a brand new full court. I especially loved the nets, the way the ball would whip through them whenever I made a shot. Most of the time, I was alone in there. It was the perfect setup to do what I had to, which was to take Jamal Crawford‘s skillset, and try to assimilate some of it into my game.
Even before that, at the time Jason Williams first descended on the national conscious, I was living not too far away from Belle, West Virginia. I saw the high dribble, the showmanship. I saw a rural, country boy living in much the same way I did. I’ve shed light on my obsession with Jason Williams before. Even today, I still sometimes watch his old tapes.
My 5 favorite players to watch dribble:
1. Jason Williams
2. God Shammgod
3. Baron Davis
4. Ben Gordon
5. Allen Iverson/Bone Collector (it’s a tie)
Eventually, I was rummaging through my garage, past the old fridge and the dusty and ragged tools, into a box to find a pair of enormous garden gloves. Brown as the dirt that was matted to them, old as the box I found them in, my fingers barely fit halfway down the gloves. I still don’t know who wore them. Then I was at the gym, every day, two $10 rubber Wilson basketballs and a pair of garden gloves. As Billy Donovan once told J-Will to do, I dribbled: spider drills, two-ball drills, behind-the-back off the wall, full-court speed drills and half-court avalanches (a drill I made up where I start from midcourt with an in-place move and run towards the basket doing a move every step in a stream of conscience that doesn’t end until I’m right at the rim).
When I did eventually take off the gloves, usually about an hour into it, the ball would whip from hand to hand like a beach ball with gravity. The Wilson was as large as a watermelon but as light as a Nerf ball.