I spin right, head fake, step back. My defender is on skates.
“Did anyone get that on video?” Someone asks.
I guess you can say I’m from the Instagram Generation. Today it seems like much of what is considered important, or what creates a buzz, comes down to 15-second video clips or 140 characters. When anything happens — a dunk, a concert or even a selfie — you better believe someone’s posting it online. I can’t lie, I’m the same way. It’s how we roll: always in the moment but at the same time thinking about the moment.
But one great thing about basketball, at least for me, is that it helps provide perspective. Some things are just bigger than a quick video clip. As I celebrate graduating high school this spring and look forward to playing basketball at Kentucky next year, it’s a lesson I’m still learning.
Earlier this spring, my teammates and I were able to win the Tournament of Champions, which is the most important trophy in New Jersey high school basketball.
My coach took me out of the game with about 30 seconds left with our team ahead. It’s hard to put into words what was in my head at the time. In the moment, I think it was hard to realize that it was my last time on a high school floor. I just remember feeling excited to get a chance to share it with my team and my family.
I remember seeing people in the stands clapping and screaming, but I don’t remember hearing anything. I guess sometimes the loudest moments are really the quietest ones. You are focused on your goal, so everything else gets tuned out.
It was the end of a great year. At the beginning of the season, I told everybody that it was our goal to win the TOC, and part of me felt bad for putting more pressure on the team than we already had from the outside. I am proud, though, of how we came together all season and were able to succeed with a target on our backs.
Which brings me back to that 30 seconds, a time that could only fit into two Instagram videos. It felt like it lasted much, much longer.
Time is funny like that — it’s really only as long as the experience feels to each person. As I watched the clock run down, I was thinking about how there’s always so much more to a story than what you see. I thought about my mom, my dad, my sisters. I thought about my brother, who couldn’t be there. I thought about my coaches. I thought about the early mornings in the gym when other kids were sleeping in, and all the work and effort from myself and others that needed to take place in order to create that one moment. No one does anything alone.
When the game was over, I noticed all the people rushing to take their phones out and post photos and videos online. I was so wrapped up in that moment that for once, social media was far from my mind. In the months between that game and now, I have realized that those Instagram moments are made really by what you do when nobody is watching. You don’t get those experiences if you don’t put in the work to get there. I love highlights, but a highlight reel doesn’t tell you about the preparation or practice that goes into being a ballplayer.
What’s even crazier is that even before the buzzer hit, I was thinking about what’s next. One time on TV, I saw Alabama football coach Nick Saban mention the next season right after he had just won the national championship. That sounded wild to me, but even though we didn’t win a national championship, I kind of understand his mindset now.
I haven’t always been the best and I haven’t always been highly thought of by other people, but I got to where I am now because I was taught to keep challenging myself.
People I respect have taught me that to be great, you can’t settle. As a 19-year-old who has had success at the high school level, I know I still have a lot to work on. For example, when I look back on that game — even as I write this — I see my turnovers more clearly than anything else.
Right now, though, I am at a different point in my life than I have ever been because major changes are coming. Next year I will have a new team and a new home at Kentucky, but my goals will be the same: to be the best player and teammate I can be — to work harder than anyone else.
But I couldn’t mention the future without mentioning my high school coaches and teammates. Thanks for the memories, the laughs and the love.
To me, my story is just entering a new chapter. Each moment has led me here and there are many different ways it could go, so it’s up to me to keep putting in the work to make sure I’m satisfied with every chapter in the book.
I’m learning that it can’t be done in 15 seconds or less.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still find me on Instagram.
Isaiah Briscoe graduates high school this weekend and enrolls at the University of Kentucky in the fall. Before that, he’ll represent Team USA in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece. Follow him on Twitter @ZayBriscoe and Instagram @Zaaay_.