December 3, 2015

We play when it’s dark and cold. Screaming “And one!” We organized ourselves to play the sacred game. Not all who play see the game as sacred and that is very well. Everyone has their place in the basketball universe. Today’s weather is absolutely December frigid, the 5 p.m. clock turn has seized any remaining daylight, yet Jackie Robinson Playground is abuzz with the sounds of play.

December 4, 2015

I have two pairs of sneakers in my current rotation. The Zoom Elite runners were definitely a swaggier decision, but I switched out of them for this. Headed to the studio (read: war) to record new music; I have to wear the Curry Twos. They look like a basketball shoe, almost entirely unfashionable. That was my primary knock against them upon first glance. The Curry Ones were more stylish.

The Twos, however, possess a deeper meaning. The myth of Stephen Curry has deepened in the short span of time between One and Two. He was a point guard for the Golden State Warriors then. Now, he is a basketball deity, purportedly one of the greatest shooters in NBA history and an All-American icon for all things good and hard-working.

Sneakers are weird and amazing in this regard. We can spend our dollars to access a virtual reality where we are one with the sneaker story. Nike’s Air Jordan line achieved widespread popularity because we needed to be like Mike. At times, the costs of that need were human lives.

Are the sneakers truly beautiful?

What I saw as unstylish about the Curry Twos, I now see as rugged and tactical. These are shoes for warriors: men and women in the business of house protection.

December 5, 2015

Playing basketball allows me to cling to a freedom that I don’t technically have anymore. I am 23—a man’s age. Jordan Year is accurate: I just graduated from college! I am currently working toward a Master’s degree in business, a hyper-adult thing to do, yet I crave the game like morning coffee. “We don’t have time to go to the park! You have to prioritize,” says the sage advisor.

After a full slate of Saturday classes, I plop down on a new bed and agonize over the next move, doing nothing. Like the heavens opening, a Facebook message comes through offering salvation: “Anybody want to ball real quick,” asks Macho. He is a friend-mentee-adversary that I have met through commitment to Jackie Robinson Playground.

Though I grew up in Ebbets Field (yes, that one) Apartments, I rarely visited the adjacent playground. I embraced the sacred game through NBA Live, the 2K series, Daily News box scores, and a subscription to SLAM Magazine. One day in 2014, as I hung around my childhood home with Grandma somewhere nearby, I asked myself why I had given up on the ultimate dream, knowing fully that ball is life. So many other dreams—hip-hop stardom, building a community center, writing classic literature—occupy my time and test my faith, so how could I give up on the original?

Stephen Curry has risen to prominence because he is somewhat of a perfect role model for the imperfect basketball player. He seems out of place, undersized and unathletic—he’s not—among his NBA peers and the average fan can relate to that. Stephen Curry is our underdog turned superhero; he leads by example, exuding confidence and humility, and he wins.

December 6, 2015 – Game Night (Nets vs Warriors)

Big decision: Do I wear my saucy Nike running sneakers to the game or my Under Armour military boots?

Basketball truly is a brotherhood. The synchronized dance of two shooter’s practice—shoot, miss, cut to the basket, layup, rebound, strong chest pass, repeat—is a thing to behold. A new court entrant doesn’t have to speak; just start rebounding and your time will come.

Exceptional performance often needs explanation in our society, and we rarely settle on the knowledge that the performer worked hard. “He must be on something” or “it’s not fair,” they might say. Even better yet: “It’s the shoes.” I got one of those last night from Macho as I kept hitting ridiculous shots in our game of Utah under the dusk. “I didn’t wanna say it!” was my retort.

Wearing the sneakers of legendary basketball players has an amazing placebo effect. The Curry Twos, and the LeBron XIs and Kobe Xs I had before them, have all impacted my game significantly. The foam upper and jagged geometric design of the LeBron Xls gave the shoe an indestructible look and feel. The Zoom cushioning system was the most solid bed I’ve ever played in. The specifications of LeBron James—a man who is equal parts force and flight—are embedded into the shoe, and we the consumer can become a part of that magic. The Kobe Xs are light, and inspired me to shoot (a lot) more. Now that I’m wearing the Curry Twos, it’s really time to let it fly.

Becoming a legend requires a very unique lifestyle. Hold fast to this principle along your journey, among the myriad distractions. Stay encouraged in the midst of your naysayers. No one can see the promised land that you have envisioned for yourself. You can give the most spectacular TED talk breaking down the nuts, bolts and context of your dream, but no one will feel it weigh on their hearts the way you do. No one will take the uncomfortable steps forward for you, or help you to cope with the unforeseen setbacks.

Herein we come to see the need for faith.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” reads the Pew Bible. I’m writing from the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights. The message of encouragement that adorns the wrapping paper of the Curry Twos comes from the book of Phillipians, Chapter 4 and verse 13.

On the 2 train, Barclays-bound. I wore the Curry Twos.

Tofu Pad Khing is how the story ends for me. The Nets-Warriors game was an absolute flop for my squadron. I hoped that connections would connect our disparate tickets (sections 19, 202, 204, 205) but nothing was the same.

“I haven’t seen it this packed in years,” said my aunt, who works at the Barclays Center. Rather than sit alone or stand watching the game in weird agony on the concourse, we retreated to National, an exceptional Thai restaurant a few steps away from the arena.

December 7, 2015 – Post-Script

“You can have an off day, but you can’t have a day off.”—Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

Never made it to my seat at the Barclays Center, didn’t see Stephen Curry hit any threes, but all was not lost. A member of the Brooklyn Nets front office recognized our company’s logo—stay branded, family—and struck up a conversation. Follow-up meeting to discuss partnership has been scheduled for tomorrow.

After leaving National, where the Vegetable Spring Rolls are packed with noodles and hope, we walked in the direction of the train. The Warriors had improved to 22-0 at this point in the night. A Carhartt-beanied figure crossed our path in the same way that stars shoot, so I had to ask quickly: “Is that Ka?!” And it was.

Looking your idols in the eye is a transformational experience. In an instant, they stop being imagined enigmas and are now real human beings, to whom logical conversational responses are required. Ka is an MC from Brownsville, Brooklyn with a cult following. He spits gravel.

I searched my brain for one of his lyrics to recite, to let him know that I knew. Like the 0.3 seconds it takes for Stephen Curry to release his unfadeable jumper, I shot forth: “Had a cold heart, ‘cuz my apartment was freezing,” and Ka finished the second half of the bar along with me. That was powerful. Ka and his wife Mimi—who looked shockingly familiar because we later realized that we just saw her in the spectacular Stretch and Bobbito documentary—were leaving the cinema at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They’d just seen Chi-Raq, the new Spike Lee Joint.

Like any good Brooklyn kids, we decided to follow their lead and catch the 9:50 showing.