Basketball Diaries continued
At O.U., I was the only person from Portville living in Athens, which was a college town of 20,000 students and 5,000
locals. Basketball players on the indoor and outdoor courts consisted of brothers and dudes from Cleveland, Cincy,
Pittsburgh, NYC, Jersey, and Philly, as well as barn-ballers from West Virginia, Kentucky, and Hoosierland. The intermurial
leagues were extensive and the competition fierce.
Pick-up hoops at the university was a culture shock to a New York hillbilly like me, let alone everything else.
The games attracted guys and girls of all levels and sizes, so courts, on any given day, evolved into the usual divisional
hierarchy- only the best players play on the main court...all the way down to a court for the novices (who were called "Nons"
by the junkies and gym rats).
I usually played on 3 intramural teams each year. But the best hoops came on Saturday afternoons in the late
Spring on the outdoor pick-up courts when the weather was fine. This is when you could find Division I varsity basketball
and football players going at it with various pre-med amateurs and street ball casualties.
Meanwhile in Olean, during the 80s, street ball came to town, especially
when new outdoor courts at Franchot Park, Boardmanville, and Bonas were built. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and cable
TV were beginning their huge, trickle-down impact on local kids.
You could see it in the moves, skills, and attitudes.
I went to college and medical residency from 1979 to 1991, so a few times a year, I traveled to various cities
to play on the inner-city and waterfront courts - Chicago, NYC, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Rochester. It
was a very cool time to watch hoops evolve on the streets and on TV.
Basketball lingo is one aspect that has evolved alot. The term "hoops" came around just 15-20 years
ago. "The rock" is 20 years old, and long shorts came in around 1990. Everything you see on the NBA
originated on the streets somewhere down the line. "I Got Next", "Takin it to the hole", "Pounding
the glass", "Schoolin", "Go to 11 by 2's", and dozens of other phrases mean something in the
culture....some pouring out to the general public.
Round Ball Stories I