Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Last weekend I attended a Middle School playoff game for the school I work for. I don't think I mentioned it but I am a Long Term Substitute Teacher for a great group of hard-working, super smart 6th, 7th & 8th graders.
It has gotten around the school that I moonlight as a basketball scout, so now I'm frequently asked to attend basketball games. I keep telling the kids I don't scout middle school but they are persistent, so there I was cheering with the rest of the faculty and staff. The game was over before it started, at the end of the 1st quarter we were up 26-1. I was really impressed by how they moved the ball on the offensive end and the defensive cohesiveness they displayed.
Attending the game I started to reflect on when I first fell in love with sports, particularly football and basketball. Growing up I was a seasonal athlete! In football season I played football, in baseball season I played baseball, in basketball season I played basketball and I even ran track for a couple of seasons. Football was my favorite sports and the primary reason for that was my oldest brother Chris, who was obsessed with the game and I wanted so badly to be like him. Before I ever suited up for organized sports, he had me in the yard doing drills. For football, it would be working on tackling or running pass routes. For baseball, it would be fielding ground balls and hitting off the tee. For basketball, it would be working on ball handling and shooting off the catch. Not to mention the 150 push-ups and sit-ups he had me doing every night.
About two weeks before my 9th birthday, Chris not my mother or father took me to sign up for 10U football at the Martin Luther King, Jr. recreation center. I went unnoticed by the coaching staff for a couple of weeks until we had our first scrimmage game against the 12U team that practiced on the same field as us. They were Huge, I was a little shook at first. Right before the game my brother came over to me and asked if I was scared and under No Circumstance would I ever admit being scared to him. But he knew and he said this to me "do you think any of these kids can Kick my Ass or H.J's. Ass (H.J. is and 2nd oldest brother)?" I said no, he replied, "good because you fight with us every day and I don't see any fear in your eyes then". He was right!
We kicked-off and we were down 21-0 before I could blink twice. They ran the kick-off back for a touchdown then on our first two offensive possessions caused 2 fumbles which they also ran back for touchdowns. I entered the game with about 6 min left in the 3 quarter at Free Safety, we were down 35-7. And they didn't waste any time trying to pick on me, they threw a short pass across the middle of the field behind the linebackers and directly in front of me.
The pass was thrown to the biggest 12yr old I'd ever seen in my life, his name was Bo-Peep and was easily 6'1 and weighed about 170 pounds all muscle (he was bigger than my dad, lol). I stood a towering 4'6 and weighed about 75 pounds soaking wet. He caught the ball and turned up the field directly towards me, I went blistering towards him. I'm sure he thought he would Run Me Over, I would've thought the same thing. There was no way I could tackle him conventionally, he was too big and strong. As he geared up to flatten me and waltz into the end-zone I dropped low (which wasn't that hard for me) and took out his knees. He hit the ground so hard, you could hear all the Ooohs and cheers from my teammates, his teammates, the parents, and the coaches. I didn't understand what the big deal was at first, wasn't I supposed to tackle him?
The best part was my Head Coach, Coach James running onto the field picking me up and shaking me in front of Bo-Peep saying "this is who tackled you, this is who dropped you". I remind you I was in full football equipment, that should give you a visual of how light in the tail I was. That tackle shut down the game and solidified my position as the starting Free Safety on the team. That year we would make it to the semi-finals for our age group before we would lose to the eventual city champs. The following year we went undefeated and won the city championship!
I continued to play multiple sports throughout elementary and middle school, with football still being my primary focus. That's until an unfortunate event took place that changed the trajectory of my life forever, which came at the perfect time...I was cut from the 8th-grade basketball team! Which really pissed me off, although I had no reason to be upset because I didn't prepare for the tryout, I just showed up and thought I was going to make the team. I probably hadn't touched a basketball since the previous basketball season. Being cut shifted my focus to basketball, well that and the fact that everybody else was growing and gaining weight and I was barely 5'2 going into High School. Deciding to leave football was the first business decision I ever made and I haven't looked back since.
From the age of 13, basketball has been centered in most of my decisions. I was able to play in college, It's taken me to almost all of the lower 48 states, I've traveled abroad several times with Athletes in Action. I worked in the CBA as one of the youngest GM/Head Coaches in the league. I even had the opportunity to work for the NBA G League as Manager of Basketball Operations/Player Personnel Coordinator. And if you're reading this then you know I currently run my own basketball scouting service and sports media company.
Looking back I learned two valuable life lessons that I follow and that have served me well in all my current and previous endeavors. The first is to always be prepared, study and practice your craft on a daily basis. The second is to never allow yourself to get stagnant or complacent because eventually, it will catch up with you. And, although I'm not where I want to be, when the opportunity presents itself, I'll be ready.
So whoever or whatever the metaphorical Bo-Peep is, PLEASE BE PREPARED TO GET DROPPED because you STILL CAN'T KICK MY BROTHERS ASS!!!!