Many folks are captivated by us tall people. My standard answer now for when anyone asks me my height is “5-foot-16.”
For those who are not math whizzes, that is 6 feet 4 inches tall. The average male height in the U.S. is 5 feet 10 inches. So I am considered tall.
Actually, I have been considered tall all my life. At Breezy Point kindergarten in Virginia, I was as tall as my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Nottingham. Actually she was kinda short, but still.
You would think that a tall, lanky kid would naturally have gravitated toward playing basketball at a young age, but not me. I was way more into reading comic books.
I didn’t really learn the rules of basketball until I was in seventh grade at Grange Intermediate. The kid who taught me was Edison Sambajon, who, as it happens, was a very short dude.
I did come to love basketball and played my eighth-grade year at Grange and the first three years of high school at Armijo. It turns out that being tall definitely helps in basketball, but there is a bit more to it.
My dad loved to play basketball and installed a concrete court in our backyard. We played one-on-one often and he always beat me. He was bigger and taller than me, so he’d back me down to the basket and then put up a hook shot that I could not stop.
But then I grew taller.
One day we were playing and when he tried his hook shot, I blocked it. Repeatedly. It was awesome. That day was the first time I beat my dad playing basketball. It was not exactly like the scene in the movie “The Great Santini,” where the dad loses to his son and then angrily bounces the ball off his son’s head as they walk up the stairs, but my dad was a proud man and did not like to lose.
I was not a naturally skilled athlete by any stretch and part of the problem was I was not aggressive. My junior varsity coach, Jay Dahl, told me that when I got the ball in the low post, to go straight up and shoot it immediately. If a defender’s jaw was in the way, too bad.
What I had been doing was taking an unnecessary dribble when I got the ball. He explained that I didn’t go anywhere when I did that, I gave the defense time to adjust and I eliminated any height advantage I had because shorter players who were better ball handlers could, and often did, steal it from me.
I practiced hard at scoring and improved. In fact, I won Most Improved Player that year at our awards ceremony. Still, I routinely got more fouls than points in games.
One thing about being tall was that it became hard to find clothes and shoes. Back then, Nikes were the new thing and the whole team had them with a cool purple swoosh – except me. They only went up to size 12 and I wore a size 13 (now 14). I did have some cool Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Adidas sneakers, but I didn’t feel special, I felt different.
I am not complaining about being tall, but it is a bit overrated. I have some questions:
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].