Updated: Feb 13
Or How I Fell In Love With Basketball In County Jail
written by Luke Boots Curley
First and foremost, rest in peace to the nine victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash, which as we all know included basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. A truly tragic event of which now eight days later still doesn’t feel like reality. You don’t have to be a Lakers fan, or even a sports fan, to understand his impact and now the absence felt by his untimely passing. I remember in 2nd grade hearing about Shaq and Kobe from the other more basketball geared kids, and that energy persisted throughout the years.
As I mentioned in a previous entry (“Passin’ Me By”- Sometime in 1999), I was very much so into hockey in my youth. I threw up during the national anthem at an L.A. Kings game where they faced the Nashville Predators. I had a hockey stick. I collected cards. I played street hockey. But, while that interest has all but disappeared, basketball has emerged and reigned supreme. I didn’t even watch the Super Bowl this year, instead while my sober living housemates were out and about, I utilized my time to binge watch shows on Netflix and watch porn. Football isn’t my thing. But I love basketball. It’s the world mourning the loss of an iconic player that has motivated me to express and explain how some guy who only strictly loved the arts and drugs found a new interest in the sport of basketball.
So, as a starting point, it was a change of scenery and Steph Curry. I like the guy. Why wouldn’t you? I have several diehard Lakers fans for friends, and while I admired their passion, I didn’t really get it. I felt like I couldn’t become interested, because I had for so long been established as the “non-sports” guy. I don’t have a family invested in sports. But, sometime in 2014, after relocating for a brief spell to a city near and dear to me, San Francisco, I started paying some more attention. Fans of the Golden State Warriors were obviously everywhere, and due to the move I was presented with a lot of fresh faces, and sometimes to kill the time at work or what have you, you just talk. They talked about the Warriors. I had read an article about Steph Curry shortly after and my first impression of him other than his obvious talent was that he was extraordinarily humble. I respected that. I started following them, from afar. Curry sinking a 3 pointer was exciting to see. It was the first time I saw something crazy awesome in sports. In my time in SF, the Giants won the World Series. The city erupted that night. Over a victory in sports? I couldn’t comprehend why it would mean so much. But, while my friends and I partied in the streets and took part in what slowly became more of a riot than a celebration, I felt the joy. I didn’t care much for baseball, I’ve been to a handful of games but it was never that entertaining for me at the time to become invested, but being part of a city’s celebration took me over. The night was, in short, memorable. For several reasons, the expense of living in San Francisco being chief among them, I moved back home to Covina, CA. While hanging out with a friend, who was a fan of the Lakers, he suggested while watching a game at his house that I should follow the sport more since I was so moved while in San Francisco and since I enjoyed watching Curry. Their 2014-2015 season was obviously a stellar year for the Golden State Warriors. So, it became something I enjoyed from a safe distance because it almost felt like I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a legitimate fan. Until 2017.
So, as you may or may not know by now from my writing, I am a recovering drug addict. I became heavily addicted to some big drugs and struggled with it off and on for years. 2017 was not a good year for me. I entered county jail twice in May of that year because of my actions catching up to me. The first time was a brief stint. The second, which began with a six day stay in Claremont city jail, was not. While I was having an absolutely awful time in the dorm I was in, with the general unpleasantness of county jail itself and the added misery of kicking drugs to boot, I didn’t have much to do but watch whatever was on television at the time. I never got dibs on what to watch. On one occasion, I woke up from a lackluster nap and found everyone crowded around the day room (a small section of the dorm with few chairs and a table where you can sit and watch tv), and I went over. Jail politics are not something I wish to dive to much into, but if you’re not aware, you primarily stick with your race. This was not the case in this situation. Most of the dorm was gathered, races of all kinds, all cheering for the same thing: for the Golden State Warriors to smash the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether or not they were all genuine GS fans I sincerely doubt, but in my daze it was comforting to see a team I had admired up there being rooted for. I was so fucked up at the time I didn’t even realize the NBA Finals were taking place until I was inside county jail. But there they were all the same, perhaps just rooting for California itself. Curry scored, Durant hammered it down, LeBron pouted. It was one of the few happy times while inside. My parents came for a visit while the game was still on and I went to see them. When I told them I was watching the Finals, they were a little surprised.
“What, you like basketball now?” they asked.
“Yeah, I’m having a pretty good time.”
The next day I was told to roll it up because I was going home. I gave out my stored up shampoos and razors, passed out my bedding, thanked my rep, and got the fuck out of there. After they had won, Kevin Durant participated in GQ magazine’s Men of the Year issue, and reading about his victory and domination with the team had me amped. I got a hat. I began watching every game when the new season started once I had entered a sober living, a step that finally helped me get my shit together. I got a warehouse job where a fellow employee told me while discussing basketball that he liked the Chicago Bulls, for his own personal reasons. Another was a Lakers fan, no surprise there. I said I liked Golden State, and they balked.
“But they’re a great team, a great organization!” I emphasized.
“Of course they’re a great team, they’re the best team, but anyone can like the best team.” they replied.
I was stung. Was I a bandwagoner? True, GS had been enjoying a lot of success, but because I had found them of my own accord, for my own reasons, was I still a bandwagoner? I decided no, this was a team that meant a lot to me, and city of residence be damned, they were mine.
A large part of my recovery has been rediscovering old interests, and developing new ones. I like to write, read, watch tv shows and movies, admire and create art, collect things, and now I watch basketball. I was a casual fan who after a very interesting experience latched on and fell for it. I don’t dislike the Lakers, I admire them, particularly now as they are absolutely dominating the 2019-2020 season. My Golden State Warriors aren’t doing so hot right now. Rattled by injuries and the departure of KD, it’s a rebuild year, and I’m here for it. They’re still my team and I still watch as many games as I can because I enjoy watching my team play and develop. That being said, I can’t wait for next year when they will be back at full strength. It’s been a rough year without a Klay Thompson and a Stephen Curry to lead the way. We’ll get back to it.
My parents bought me a basketball a few months into my sober living recovery, and I used to play with several guys from the house practically every day at one point. I hadn’t touched a basketball since high school P.E., and the only time I felt decent was one time before my Lutheran pastor father’s confirmation class started, I made a few baskets in the church’s gym. I was 13, into punk rock, and only went inside to kill time with a fellow church kid before the class. He handed me the ball, I flung it like a damn fool, and caught air. He gave it back and said to aim with my left hand, and shoot with my dominant right hand. Aim with one hand, shoot with the other. I made like four shots from distance in a row. It was the highlight of my career. Playing with the sober living crew, I was ok. I’m relatively tall so I have decent reach, and at one point felt myself developing to be a decent shooter. But one day, while working out (another interest that has helped my self esteem and recovery is going to the gym as often as I can), I fucked up my right shoulder on the bench press. That was over a year ago and I still have to deal with a little pain sometimes. I tried to shoot after the injury, but the results were fleeting, and while my arm has improved, I get almost nervous to try. I work construction so I fuck my body up pretty good doing that. I had a slipped disc last year that sidelined me for the remainder of the season. I wish I had pursued playing in my youth. I’m no giant, but I heard it all the time because of my height. Ky Bowman, who just signed a two year deal with the Warriors, is maybe slightly taller than me, and the man can fucking leap. “Sky” Bowman can slam it down. I wish I could slam it down. The last pick up game I remember playing I wasn’t doing so hot and my friend got upset, and another friend on the opposing team hit me in the ear on accident causing my tunnel plug to cut into my neck. I was pissed, bleeding, so I stormed off the court. I’ve only played by myself just to see where I’m at. I’m not doing great, I make maybe 20% of all shots attempted, but it feels good to just shoot the ball and see how high I can get up there.
All this as a result of a change of location and some time in county jail. Hobbies are important, and developing new interests has been a reminder that life is full of possibilities and undiscovered passions, and by remaining on the right path, there’s no limit to the enjoyment life has to offer.
Luke is a member of the wrting staff at Faded Morgana, as well as the Creative Director for the Film and Television projects releasing later this year. Luke comes from a pop-culture fueled background including healthy obsessions with Quentin Tarantino, Alkaline Trio and Wes Anderson films, as well as unhealthy obsessions with old school punk and the Smiths. Luke rates stories by Ewoks rather than Gold Stars.