In those late Winter months when the sun broke early, and then night came urgent, as if the sky was flicked on and off—for in those days when we were ghosts outside and our shadows paced in the overcast of a street-light—back then, after homework was finished and before dinner was served, you could find us on the court—jump-shots, lay-ups, behind-the-backs—phantoms on fast-breaks in high-tops. You could find us living for the glory of fade-away-three-pointers. You could find us mimicking the sounds of a swish or the clank of a missing basket on the board. You could find us like animals on stampedes above the black asphalt, chasing the ball as if prey. Basketball was all we thought about, at every moment—all we discussed. Even in Algebra, somehow a quadratic equation would better our shot. And in History, we presented biographies on Naismith and Spaulding. And somehow the Food Pyramid started with Gatorades. And any hypothesis began and ended with what would increase our vertical-leaps. If we could, we’d wear our team uniform to school, but instead, chose the AND1 brand attire—the jersey with no sleeves, the polyester shorts below our knees, the sweatbands and wristbands, the All Ball or Nothing slogan. We lived for the Game. We went to war for the Game—four boys, two-on-two, fighting for one ball, one hoop, and the namesake. Hot-brows and busted lips—jammed thumbs and sore wrist—momma-jokes and shit-talk—screen, screen, box-out, butter, brick, snuffed, run that back, and-one—the language of our realm, for it was our way of life. We’d spend all night out there, training for the next game—running suicides from either side of the court, dribbling with our eyes close between cones, practicing free-throws and One-Twos and Two-Threes from out of bounds. We played until the dark exhausted the light—until the ball would undoubtedly be lost after bouncing that one final time off the rim. And when that happened, which it always did and none of us volunteered to go find it, we’d turn in—and look up, with our backs laying against the court—giving the stars our eyes and dream—maybe like the Greeks did—how they dreamt of Orion and Pegasus—and while under those same stars after however many games to twenty-one—sweating, slick, cold, and wet, we dreamt of our gods, our heroes. We dreamt of the day when we could grab rim—the day when we could lift from the ground as effortlessly as Vince Carter or Kobe Bryant. We dreamt of the clean-crossovers, like Allen Iverson—leaving whatever defensive player with two broken ankles. We dreamt of buzzer-beaters, of Reggie Miller shooting outside the three-point line with five seconds left. We dreamt of the dribblers, the free-throwers, the triple-doublers—the men who flew on Nike swishes—the angels of The Paint.
Davon Loeb earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden University and a B.A. in English from Montclair State University. He is an assistant poetry editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Davon writes poetry and creative nonfiction. His work has been featured in Tahoma Literary Review, East Jasmine Review, Portland Review, Across the Margin, Harpoon Review, Connotation Press, Apeiron Review, and elsewhere. Davon is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Currently, he is an English teacher and is writing his first book.