You’ve seen the picture. You know, the one of the little boy in the bed dreaming of playing basketball for the University of Kentucky?
Once upon a time that was me. It may not have been me in that famous picture, but playing basketball for the Wildcats was always a fantasy for me growing up in rural Madison¿County. We lived on Walnut Meadow Road between Richmond and Berea in a region known as “Bucket Town,” which was surrounded by Kirksville, Paint Lick and Happy Landing.
Hours upon hours, I would dribble and shoot the basketball and pretended that I played for coach Joe B. Hall. I shot alongside imaginary teammates Kyle Macy, Sam Bowie, Fred Cowan, LaVon Williams, Jay Shidler, Dirk Minnifield, Derrick Hord and Chuck Verderber on any given night. The “3-2-1” clock winding down, game-winning shot was my favorite drill. Sometimes, my sister Taunya would put her Barbie doll down long enough to provide some competition, but most of the time it was me, the basketball and a goal, featuring a red, white and blue net.
Back then, the goals were “old school” and didn’t have the soft touch that modern goals have. They were harsh and you had to be right on target to make a shot. I used an imaginary block on the plywood backboard for bank shots. The location was perfect, because we had a “night light” and it provided enough brightness to shoot hoops past bedtime. Most of the time, halftime consisted of running to the kitchen long enough to eat dinner and returning to the court. The water hose served as a fountain for a young, thirsty soul.
In the winter, dreams of summer began almost immediately after watching the Wildcats on television. Most of the time, those games were on tape delay and my dad and I would watch them on Channel 27 as snow covered our driveway, turning the three-color net white.
When it came time for a new net, dad pulled his truck up close enough to the goal so I could cut down the net and wear it around my neck before putting the new one on the rim. In my imagination, we had just won a national championship.
Later, the court moved to the adjacent lot after my grandparents sold their modest two-bedroom mobile home and relocated to Richmond.
The move from one court to another provided more room and a better place to practice, but there was something about shooting basketball on a rim nailed to the garage.
That’s where my love for basketball began.