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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Basketball: The Thumb on Your Face

”It’s as plain as the nose thumb on your face.”

Growing up over fifty years ago, we had a family friend, who literally seemed to have a thumb growing out of their face. I’m sure that it was some kind of benign tumor. But it begged the question, “why not do something about it?”

Times were different. My youngest sister watched me play basketball; I didn’t watch her play. How dumb was that?

We all have that thumb on the face, the quirk or habit that needs repair or that others say in camera “why doesn’t he fix that?”

Maybe we have a purpose to our ‘short’ rotation or long one. Why doesn’t he take a timeout? Some coaches challenge their team to “figure it out.” Momentum be damned. Why don’t they do traditional layup lines? Why this, why that?

Last season I had a team of inexperienced sixth grade girls, but with some parents (unbeknownst to me) who had played college or pro (European) basketball, college hockey, or were elite high school athletes in gymnastics or track. One family traced lineage to the former state education commissioner. But they never publicly shamed me or called for the ‘thumb’ to be amputated. I’m sure that defines their dignity more than mine.

We lost a few horrific games. If I’d been carrying those ball bearings of Captain Queeg or Thomas Edison, I’d likely have thrown them or at least put my eyes out. But thanks to the flanking admonitions from Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success (faith and patience, or a secular belief and time), we improved and finished with a nine game winning streak. The coach didn’t score one basket, collect a rebound, or take any charges...thumb or no thumb.

Players should look for the thumb, too. Don’t catch and reflexively dribble. Turn off the ‘my turn’ shot clock in your head. Don’t stand, don’t lollygag in transition and always read the defense and setup your cuts...or everyone sees that thumb growing bigger. “Why not do something about it?”


Sideline out of bounds action from Chris Oliver...we’re too young to make many threes but we could set up the drive, too.

And happy birthday to my youngest sister...

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