Basketball

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the realisation that my brief foray into the world of elite sport may have ended almost as soon as it began and I decided I was fine with it – after all, GB (and separately, Ireland) Handball are pretty much my Bezzies, now and there are loads of them. But, just when I’d given up hope of circumnavigating London 2012 Judo Silver medallist  Gemma Gibbons’ “people”, she reached out to me via the medium of Twitter (in response to my 9,000th tweet at her) in my hour of need.

“Get yourself down to Metro Judo Club”, shone the bright light in the Judo-based wilderness, “My coach Mick Murphy will give you some tips”. I’ll be honest, I’m daring to dream, again.

All hail the tweet of Gemma Gibbons

All hail the tweet of Gemma Gibbons

But this week, I’ll be talking slam-dunking, as the kids possibly once said. That’s right – Basketball. I did play basketball at school, a bit, but what I know about this sport is largely based on playing NBA Jam as a teenager on the SNES (that’s a Super Nintendo, for those of you who weren’t teenagers in the 90s) with my brother and owning a hand-me-down pair of his Nike Air Jordans. I thought they were pretty cool, until some boy laughed at them on a school trip in Holland. In fairness, he had quite big ears and probably didn’t do very well in his GCSEs, so who won in the end, I ask myself?

Here is what I know about basketball: it is very popular in America, particularly with super famous people, like Leonardo DiCaprio. It is played by extremely tall people and Zac Efron in a number of his films (give 17 Again a chance – you will enjoy it more than you expect or are prepared to admit). Basketball is the cool friend of Netball – it wears a leather jacket and smokes in the toilets at school.

Basketball is so cool that Jay-Z is friends with it, and he hangs out with it in Brooklyn. I saw him hanging out with Basketball in Brooklyn last year. It was awesome, but I was a little distracted by the presence of Beyonce, and faded RnB star, Mario, singing Star Spangled Banner with the US Marines. They really know how to do sport in the States – they have pyrotechnic displays and men dressed as Decepticons firing T-shirts into the crowd with a sort of T-Shirt bazooka. It’s just a lot sexier than the guy who sings The Valley Flloyd Road song about the mist rolling in from the Thames (or seats, alarmingly – never did catch the words) to the tune of Mull of Kintyre, during half-time at a Charlton game.

As a super cool sport, of course there’s a women’s team in super cool Dalston and fortunately, the Dalston Dunkers happily obliged when I asked if I could come and train with them one evening. After a bit of coaxing, I managed to convince one of my bezzies, Harriet, who you will know as the Luxembourg of the Inspire a Jen medal table, to come along with me. She is tall and she likes basketball, she even used to be in a team.

Curse my punnable name

Curse my punnable name

Harriet turns up at my flat wearing a beanie for the occasion and I prance downstairs in some shiny leggings and a Brooklyn Nets shirt that I bought in New York. My flatmates laugh their arses off when they regard us.
“They’re going to beat us up, aren’t they?” H-Dog ponders.

Harriet and I, we're pretty cool, as this photo in my kitchen suggests

Harriet and I, we’re pretty cool, as this photo in my kitchen suggests

On the way, we discuss our expectations.  “Everyone just assumes that you’ll be good at basketball if you’re tall” she tells me “but I’m crap”.

“Well, I haven’t played in about 15 years so you definitely won’t be as crap as me”, I try to reassure her, but secretly, I think I’ll be alright. I’m taller than average, I’m starting to get vaguely fit what with all this stupid marathon training and I’ve been associating with Basketball’s pedestrian friend, Netball, just lately.“Jade went over on her ankle when we last played” Harriet warns me, “ I’ve seen it happen a lot – you’ve got to be careful”, yeah yeah yeah, ankle schmankle, I think to myself.
We arrive and get cracking with some gentle jogging round the court. When I later discover that the Dalston Dunkers’ coach is the Head of Discipline at a local school in Hackney, the subsequent turn of events makes more sense. We’re instructed to sprint from one end of the hall to each line on the court and back until we reach the final line at the other end of the hall. There are really rather more lines than I’m comfortable with.

After this, we’re onto abs and we’re instructed to lie on the floor with our shoulders and feet raised off the ground whilst opening and closing our legs. Try this now. Literally, lie down on the floor right now and give this a go for 30 seconds – let me know how it makes you feel. Not for the first time in this challenge, I feel physically sick and realise that I’m really a lot less fit than I thought I was.

Following this mercifully brief fitness-based part of the evening, we play some basketball. The coach constructs a team consisting of me, Harriet, another newbie and some other regular team members who he declares are also rubbish. Unsurprisingly, they are not rubbish, nor is the other newbie. The coach puts Harriet up front on the net, because she’s tall. She starts to protest that height is not necessarily an advantage, but he’s not having it. I’m not entirely sure what my purpose is in this game; apparently I’m to drive the opposition out to the right, or something. What I end up doing is repeatedly running to the other side of the court without touching the ball. Very occasionally, I catch the ball, panic, and hastily throw it somewhere without much consideration as to where it’s going.  By stark contrast, Harriet is pretty good

A member of the opposition gets all up in Harriet's grill

A member of the opposition gets all up in Harriet’s grill

Despite the complete absence of value I’m adding to the game, I’m quite enjoying myself just running around, arms flailing. That is until, during a little tussle with someone on the other side, I go over on my ankle. It seems to happen in slow motion (Harriet later tells me “I knew it, as soon as I saw you go, I thought ‘I bet she’s gone over on her ankle’.”) and thoughts of the much-resented London Marathon flash through my mind. It hurts like hell, but I get up and “run” around on it a bit more until I realise that it’s just not happening and bench myself.

Quite possibly the precise moment I went over on my ankle

Quite possibly the precise moment I went over on my ankle

This gives me a chance to chat to some of the team, though. Dalston Dunkers originally formed when a group of local mums got together to train as a way of keeping fit. The membership has grown over the years and the team has apparently taken on a more competitive feel, but those who don’t want to play competitively are still welcomed at the training sessions and for a pint afterwards.

H Dog and I failing miserably to prevent this goal

H Dog and I failing miserably to prevent this goal

I like the Dalston Dunkers and I like basketball, even though I’m terrible at it. I’m even planning on going back once I get this pesky marathon out of the way. I’m giving the Dunkers a gold medal, this week, just because I like them and I can. But they share it with Inspire a Jen medal table minnow, Harriet, who was so good they even wanted her to return and I’m very pleased to report that she did exactly that.

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

Jen

7

9

1

17

Jade

2

1

3

Gemma

2

2

Nick

2

2

Harriet

1

1

          2

Chloe Rogers

1

1

Dalston Dunkers

1

1

GB Handball

1

1

John

1

1

Naomi

1

1

Otter Water Polo

1

1

Romford HC

1

1

Ruislip Eagles

1

1

Steve

1

1

Simon

2

2

Uncle Becky

2

2

Ali

1

1

James

1

1

My Mum

1

1

Nic

1

1

Pete

1

1

 

© Inspire a Jen, 2013.

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