The Eight People You Might Meet at a Pick-Up Basketball Game(But Probably Not in Heaven)
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Fire"
Originally featured on 02-26-2008
As part of our series "Elements of Style"

Hey, how’s it going? I haven’t seen you down here before. Yeah, I’m here pretty much every week. It’s fun, we get some good games going sometimes. Yeah, you’ll have a good time. Ah, I see a lot of the usuals are here. That’s Robby shooting free-throws.

Yup, that jersey does look new, probably is. Robby’s one of the guys you always find down here, or at any game for that matter. What? You haven’t played a lot of pick-up ball have you? When you’ve played as much as I have you really get to know the kinds of people who come down to play. Take Robby for example. He’s the Guy Decked Out in a Hundred Dollar Jersey. It’s Bryant today, last week I think it was Jordan. Let’s just say Robby’s compensating for his- whoops, air ball. I think you can guess what he’s compensating for.

Oh no, there’s Steve. Steve’s the Young Guy Who Always Wants to Go Full-Court. Now I don’t really mind but for most of the guys who come down here, their full-court days are behind them. Of course they don’t want to admit it and they’ll say something like half-court games are more fun — which I completely agree with — but if Steve gets enough people behind him, and he might if he whines enough, we’ll play full-court. There’s always a lot of huffing and puffing on those nights.

See that guy stretching? That’s Tony, otherwise known as the Shirtless Guy. Yeah, but just wait a minute. It’s not even that warm today but it’s only a matter of time before it comes off, you’ll see. Tony probably spends a few hours at the gym every day and he wants everyone to know it. Nobody likes having to guard Tony.

There’s Johnson. Wow, nice shot. Johnson’s the Show Off. He’s good and he knows it. I think he might have played for some school around here. Most of us come down to have a good time but he acts like there are scouts watching him. And every time his team has the ball he calls for it and even if you’re open or have a lane to the basket, you’ll pass it to him. Oh, you don’t think so? Just wait. Everybody does it and we all end up just standing around watching him.

That guy dribbling on the side over there? That’s Jerry and that’s his latest move, pretty slick, huh? Jerry’s the Good Ball-Handler Who Can’t Do Anything Else. He speeds around the court channeling Bob Cousy and Pistol Pete, dribbling behind his back, through his legs, over his shoulders, but his passes usually end up smacking someone in the face and he can’t make a shot to save his life. Keep your eyes open if he’s on your team and if you have to guard him, let him shoot.

There’s Mike, I thought he’d be here. Mike’s the Guy Who Thinks He’s in the NBA. Takes the game a little too seriously. He’ll call for you to set a pick for him — and then scream at you if you don’t do it right. Or he’ll post up whoever’s guarding him like Shaq, driving his sweaty ass into your crotch. Yeah, I’ve been on the receiving end of that. Then he’ll take all kinds of weird hook-shots thinking he’s Kareem, and when he misses — which is most of the time — he’ll rebound like Rodman, boxing out like a maniac and throwing elbows. You should probably stay away from Mike if you can.


That’s Todd. Todd’s the Complainer. Nothing’s ever Todd’s fault. If he misses a shot, he got fouled. If his pass gets stolen, you weren’t in the right spot. And God forbid you miss an easy shot or knock the ball out of bounds, he’ll never let you hear the end of it.

Yup, I think that’s pretty much everybody. Me? Hmm. Well, I guess I don’t really fall into one category or another.

“Hey, Chucker, you ready to play?”

Very funny, Johnson. He’s just kidding around. I’m not a Chucker. I might shoot a lot sometimes but I’m definitely not a Chucker, I never just chuck it up. I mean, I’ll sometimes take the occasional bad shot — last week I might’ve taken one falling out of bounds in the corner and I think I shot one backwards one time — but they all felt good and they weren’t too far off. I need to shoot, you see, I need to. That’s what I am, I’m a shooter and it sometimes takes me a little while to warm up, but when I do, I can catch fire quick, I’m talking en fuego.

Oh, looks like were ready. Maybe we’ll be on the same te- Hey, where you going? We’re about to get started, you don’t want to…? Oh, well. Hey, Mike. How’s it going, Steve?

“Yo, who wants to run full-court?”

Read More By Tim Josephs

COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project

Archives Archives