Jeff Pearlman

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My favorite game of pickup

I haven’t kept count, but if I had to guesstimate how many games of hoops I’ve played in my life, it’d surely number into the thousands.

Growing up, I played with friends on my driveway hoop.

In college, I played with my roommates outside Christiana Towers.

I played at the YMCA in Nashville. I played at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. I play most Saturday mornings at the courts by my house. I’ve played and played and played. With friends. With foes. In leagues. On a team called—really—the Runnin’ Jeffies.

My life has featured many passions, but basketball probably tops the list.

Earlier today, on the courts at Laguna Beach, I played my all-time favorite game. It was with my 13-year-old son.

Emmett and I play a ton of one-on-one hoops at the nearby court, and we’ve definitely had family games, but today was the first time Emmett and I played together, on the same squad, in legitimate pickup. We arrived at the courts planning on just shooting, but when someone said, “Let’s play” to a group of people—well, we jumped in. There were two young teens, so Emmett and another kid were split.

It was 4 on 4. Sun shining. Slight breeze. Ocean about 40 feet away. I yelled some instructions to Emmett, but mostly let him be him—feisty defense, pump fakes galore, lots of physical hand play. When he hit his first shot, he looked at me—suppressed smile. While he hit his second, less of a suppressed smile. More like, “Yeah, I’m doing this.” He set me up for an assist, was energetic and effective. On multiple occasions it hit me—truly hit me—that I was with my kid at Laguna Beach running a game.

It was bliss.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life