Thursday, April 17, 2008

9 Out of 10 Free Throws: Twice!!

By Dave Armstrong (4-17-08)

Now, for a little typically male athletic bragging. Today was the first time this spring I got out to the backyard to shoot some hoops. My 6'1" 14 yo (who beats me about two out of three in one-on-one now) and 11 yo who is not bad himself, have been out there for weeks. I can hear the bouncing balls from my library / office upstairs in our house.

So I go out there and we do the ten foul shots routine. I was terrible at first. I got 4-for-10, then 3-for-10. I even got as low as 2-for-10 (BOO!), which really stinks. I had no rhythm in my shots or the right spin, or enough arc. My 14 yo son got 7-for-10. Even my younger boy got 5 out of ten. But I took it all in stride. I knew I had to warm up, and I knew I wasn't that bad overall. It was only my first time this year.

The older boy (I know him well and he has my intense competitive spirit) started getting smug and thinking it would be a slam dunk beating me this year one-on-one. But wait! The old man (50 in July) was just getting warmed-up! Eventually I got my shooting rhythm (it can't be held down forever!) and I made 9-for-10. This was higher than my son had ever done. His highest ever was 8. So that made for more than a little friendly teasing. Then a little later I did it again. So I did twice in my first day out playing, what he had never done. Later I went to play chess with my younger son (he won, because he is a whiz at chess), and the other son kept shooting to try to match me. He eventually sunk 9, but then, of course, I could still playfully "brag" about having done it twice today. Gotta love it!

Moreover, I have the all-time "Armstrong back yard" record for free throws. I made 10-for-10 almost exactly four years ago (as I wrote about). The 14 yo, who was ten and about five feet tall in those days, was already making 7-for-10 even then. In October 2006, I kicked a 30 yard field goal (punt style) in regular gym shoes. That was a thrill too (never having done that much).

For those who don't follow basketball much, 90% free throw shooting is about as good as it gets. The NBA leader for 2007-2008 (with just a game or two left), Peja Stojakovic, shot 92.6% (126 for 136). Chauncey Billups of my beloved Detroit Pistons was second (91.7%), but with many more attempts (399 for 435). So for those two stretches of time and 20 shots, I made 18 and was at 90%: the same distance from the basket and the same height of the basket: just as in the NBA.

That's pretty rewarding stuff for a fun-loving competitive jock like me, trying to hang on to "youth" as I approach the dreaded half-century mark. This will be a fun sports year, with backyard basketball, and an informal pick-up softball team I'll be on every two weeks. I'm still pretty good at baseball (which has always been my favorite sport). I slaughter my big son in strikeout (a couple years ago it was, like, 33 to 3 in just a few innings), but he has become dominant in one-on-one basketball (he's a tremendous defender, complete with many blocked shots), so it is a big challenge to me to try to beat him. I have to shoot well and defend pretty good too or there is no chance at all. I'm just glad I can still play after all these years and provide some decent competition. It's a great father-son activity that will provide lots of good memories for years to come.

Now, no doubt, I'll be out there in the next few weeks trying to get to 10-for-10 again . . . and you'll know if I do!

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