Dear Youngbloods


Do me a favor, turn down the music for a second? The hippity hop can wait. We’ve got to talk about your game.

I’m sure the last thing you want right now is a lecture from an old man.

Tough luck.

I may be old and gray, but I could still take you to the rack.

The legends of the game showed me how to get buckets — and get ‘em the right way. Now it’s my duty to look out for the next generation. That’s the code.

This game has always been and will always be about buckets. Pure and simple. That’s just as true today as when I first learned it damn near 60 years ago. But today’s game has changed. Half the time, I’m shaking my head at what I see. Y’all want to look good before you play good — but you’ve got the order flipped. With the flashy fadeaways that never fall. The dribbling to nowhere. The shooting sleeves and the high-tech shoes and what not. There’s a lot of noise out there. At the end of the day, getting buckets is first and foremost about one simple thing: the fundamentals.

The fundamentals will set you free

I’m telling y’all. The fundamentals will set you free. It’s like the jazz records my pops used to play on Sunday afternoons. First you master the fundamentals. Then you get to forget about ‘em. You’re improvising. That’s why I always say: streetball is an art form.

You feel me, youngbloods? I need to see more jazz in your game.

Be ready

By that, what I mean is, Be ready to wait. The game starts before the game starts, if you know what I mean. Streetball ain’t orange slices and everybody-plays. You’ll need to master the virtue of patience or you’ll get chewed up and spit out before you get your shoes tied. Here’s the truth: You won’t get respect when you think you should. They’re gonna say you’re too short. Too fat. Too skinny. Too ugly (I’m lookin at you, Dax). That’s just the basketball gods taunting you. That’s the guys up above saying, Go home. Give up. Try out for volleyball.

Your opportunity will come, but it won’t come when you want. That’s not how opportunity works — always when you least expect it. So before you learn to Euro Step, go ahead and learn some patience.

There is no offseason

Streetball season doesn’t ever stop. It’s all year, any weather. You can’t measure it in 82 games or 48 minutes.

You playing for stats? Triple-doubles don’t count for nothin’. Get a YMCA card. Playing for the cameras? Catch a bus to Hollywood. Playing for the crowd? Take a comedy class. The only audience you’ll have out here is the other guys waiting to send you home to your mama. You gotta do this for the love. The only question you need to care about is, What’s the count? Check the ball up.

Get tough

The first time you play at a new spot, pick out the biggest guy on the other squad. Take dead aim at him. Go to the rack. Rise up and keep your elbows sharp. You’ll get fouled, but don’t say a word. We don’t call fouls out here. Just finish strong. It’s going to hurt.

If you’ve got a million dollar move and a five-cent finish … how much are you really worth?

Never quit

Now that I’m an old man, people ask me when I’m gonna hang it up. This is what I tell ‘em: You don’t stop playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing.

Look at it this way — I’ve been driving the same van since 1968. It’s beat up. The paint job’s fading. But you know what? That van still purrs like a cat. It’s what’s under the hood that matters.

So, please. I’ll quit the day you can check me.

But until then, youngbloods … Get Buckets.