Basketball Stories That Have Almost Nothing To Do With Basketball

From ages eight to twelve I was in The Nutcracker, and I was completely in love with my ballet partner, Kendall Ford. The best part about the show was that during one scene I got to kiss her onstage. One time I invited Kendall to one of my middle-school basketball games, and I shot the ball literally every time I touched it.

In high school I was playing one-on-one with my friend John, and he was guarding me tight. I brought the ball over my head and accidentally elbowed him in the face. John bled all over the court and across the parking lot. He wouldn’t let me drive him, instead driving himself to get gas and then to the emergency room. He left with eight stitches and a crooked scar between his eyes, “thus being called Harry Potter by my coworkers for the last eight years,” he recently told me.

As a kid I went to a preseason event to meet all the Ohio State basketball players. They all signed their autographs on a piece of paper, which quickly became my most prized possession. A few days later, I found the paper on the floor at home. My sister, a toddler, had scribbled over the entire thing. The Buckeyes made the Final Four that year.

In middle school my teammate’s parents hosted the players and their parents for an end-of-season brunch. The adults schmoozed inside, and the kids went to the backyard and took turns wearing and getting shocked by my friend’s dog’s electric collar.

At a sleep-away basketball camp in middle school, I opened my suitcase to find I didn’t have any socks. I blamed my teammate for stealing them — he denied it — and wore the same pair of socks for eleven basketball games. Afterwards, I promptly threw them out. When I returned home from camp, I found several pairs of socks my mom had packed in the side pocket of the suitcase.

I was recently going through old stuff at my parents’ house and found sheets of (amazingly thorough) statistics someone had compiled from my sixth grade travel basketball season. According to the sheet, I’d scored eight points the entire season, for an average of 0.25 points/game. I also found another piece of paper. Apparently our coaches awarded every player a superlative, which was legitimized on a printed certificate. Mine was “Most Likely to Get a Nose Ring,” which was rather prophetic since thirteen years later, I had.

In elementary school I played in a three-on-three basketball tournament. (Fun fact: Lil’ Bow Wow, who grew up near me, also participated that year.) My team lost to a trio of girls, but we still received a trophy at the end. It looked exactly like the winners’ trophies, except instead of “Champions,” ours said “Sportsmanship Award.”

My summer league team was short a player, so I recruited a friend, who happened to be a Division-I runner. Halfway through the game, he broke his foot. Another time, during a co-rec league, we were short a player so I recruited my friend who was an All-American D-III triple jumper. She also broke her foot in the game. Sorry, guys.

I remember as an elementary schooler watching a brawl after a game my high school played against our rivals. The fight spilled onto the streets and into the neighborhood, with upper-middle class suburban private school kids chasing upper-middle class suburban public school kids through the sleepy streets and across their parents’ manicured lawns. I think my friend’s brother wound up with a broken jaw.

One year at Ohio University basketball camp, I memorized all the lyrics to “Colt 45” by Afroman. I still haven’t forgotten them. Whenever I do karaoke, they never have the song — too raunchy, I suppose — so I settle on “Because I Got High” instead.

Our sixth-grade basketball coaches missed our rivalry game because someone slashed their tires after they won the National Dodgeball Championship.

When I asked my friends for their favorite basketball memories, my friend Sam texted that our friend “Robert threw a piece of Kraft singles cheese onto the court while an actual high school game was going on.” I never got the full story on that one, but it’s too bizarre not to include.

I had a bad temper on the court. One time I got so mad during practice that I literally bit a hole in my jersey. Goosebumps author R.L. Stine grew up in my hometown, and I recently went to see him read here in New York City. He signed that jersey at the event and I haven’t worn it since.

Freshman year we were blowing out a team, so they put the scrubs — me — in the game. For some reason, the other team continued to intentionally foul. I just happened to have the ball every time they fouled, so I ended up taking twelve free throws in just a couple minutes. I made eight of them, and considering a few years before I’d only scored eight points the entire season, this was one of the most prolific games of my career.

Immediately after the game, my mom drove me to visit my sister at college by myself for the first time. It was also the first time I drank alcohol.

“If Mom asks what we did, tell her we saw a movie,” my sister told me after Mom drove away. She was on the diving team and wasn’t supposed to drink during “dry season.”

“What movie did we see?” I asked, already paranoid about an interrogation.

“I don’t know. Big Fish.”

Then about a dozen of us crammed into someone’s dorm room, and I had four Coronas and an entire bottle of Boone’s Farm Melon Ball, which I haven’t consumed — or even seen — since that night. On a trip from the dorm room to the bathroom, I passed out on the floor. The next day I swore to myself I’d never drink again. My mom drove me home and never asked what we did. A decade later I saw Big Fish and loved it.

Ben Kassoy is the Managing Editor of, the coauthor of eight books, and a former online columnist for Glamour and Details. He also has a Twitter, a Facebook, and a website.

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