Thank you basketball

Joshua Miciano sits on the rim of a basketball hoop at Pacific Park.

Basketball has always been a big part of my life. I’m in love with the sport. The motions, cutting, passing and shooting, it’s all exhilarating. But then there is also everything off of the court that compliments the game itself. The storylines, media, business aspects and personalities all contribute to making this game so special. This love first started in a restaurant down the street from my house.

My first real exposure to basketball came in 2006 at Damon’s Steak House in Glendale, Calif. My father has always been a huge basketball fan, and while I was present for most of the Los Angeles Lakers successful run at the turn of the century, I was never interested. I was just too young to appreciate the game. But in 2006 when I was a nine year old, my eyes were glued to the television as soon as I walked into the dim lit Polynesian-themed steak house.

The television set right by the entrance of Damon’s Steak House were I would first fall in love with basketball.

Basketball was never relatable to me, I was chubby and pale but taller than most of my classmates. The Dallas Mavericks were playing and I finally saw the player that would make me fall in love with basketball, Dirk Nowitzki. I was so infatuated with him because this was the first time that I felt like I could be in the NBA. In my head I was Nowitzki because I was tall and looked white, and from that day on basketball became a big part of my life.

Conversations about the sport began with my father, and I just wanted to learn. He taught me about the greats, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many more. He showed me videos on the VCR and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Some of my favorite clips were of Johnson beating the Boston Celtics with a baby hook shot in game four of the NBA finals in 1987 and Jordan’s final shot against the Utah Jazz to win the 1999 NBA finals.

After all the NBA history lessons, my father advocated that I be a Lakers fan. I did not hesitate after learning about the franchise’s accomplishments, and what the team meant to my father. He came to this country without knowing a word of English, but would learn through watching the Lakers broadcast. That was the first instance in my life where I realized that basketball and sports in general were more than just games. For some it is an escape, and for others it is an inspiration to strive for greatness. The grind it takes to be a professional athlete can be applied to any occupation in life.

In 2008, the Lakers lost to their long time rivals, the Boston Celtics. That one hurt especially for my father, but he assured me that everything was going to be okay. Just a year later, the Lakers would go on a run and win two championships in 2009 and 2010.

This is what I looked like the last time the Lakers won a championship.

I was with my father for both championships three years after that night at Damon’s Steak House. It was such a high for us and we celebrated for days, but just as fast as the high came the low which would quickly follow.

The next seven years were miserable for Lakers fans. Superstar Kobe Bryant sustains a career depleting achilles injury, Lakers owner Jerry Buss had passed away in the middle of the 2012–2013 season and the team had fallen off to playing its worst basketball in franchise history. I was still supportive of the team, but it was a tough time.

Looking back there was always a lesson to be learned. Life has its up and downs, but it’s up to you to decide how you want to handle it. Being a fan of a bad team made me appreciate what it’s like to be on top. I found all the little gold nuggets of positivity in every situation. Life lessons are at the core of every sport. It’s all a battle, just like life.

I started playing basketball way later than I wish I had. I began to take it seriously after I graduated high school. It’s one of my biggest regrets, but I’ve used that regret to fuel my passion for the game. I’m not the best athlete or the most skilled player, but I play hard and respect the game. Playing basketball skyrocketed my love for the sport, and taught me so many more lessons. The most important one was to treat all obstacles with a “minor setback, major comeback” mindset. I’ve had many ankle injuries that have taken a toll on me physically and mentally, but I’ve learned from them and returned stronger and smarter after months of not being able to play.

At this point in my life, even the sounds of basketball excite me. The squeak of the floor, the sound of the ball being dribbled and the swish of the net is beautiful to me. The feeling of hitting a game winner and celebrating with your teammates is electrifying. Grinding for hours to work on one skill and finally implementing it into your game is a great feeling. I’ve always compared basketball to Jazz music because of how the game has structure but is heavily improvised. Good basketball has a flow to it just like music, and it is so beautiful. The day my body finally caves in and I can’t play basketball will be a sad one, but I will always love the game.

A few days ago I went to a bar before a Los Angeles Dodgers game, and I happened to be wearing a Brandon Ingram jersey. Just on my way to my seat, people yelled out “Lets go Lakers” and “LeBron is the king”. As I sat down, a man came up to me and we just talked hoops as I waited for the baseball game to start. He was a longtime fan with a lot more experience than me, and it felt like I was reliving the basketball history lessons I once had with my father.

I love basketball so much, it has helped me through a lot. Through all the good times and bad times, I’ve used it as a way to cope with sadness, frustration and heartbreak. I’ve made lifelong friendships with strangers through watching and playing, something I have come to appreciate everyday.

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