The NBA Fan’s Guide to Talking Trash During Pickup Basketball

Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, has words with New York Knicks' Kenyon Martin during the first half in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston, Sunday, April 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, has words with New York Knicks' Kenyon Martin during the first half in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston, Sunday, April 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, has words with New York Knicks’ Kenyon Martin during the first half in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston, Sunday, April 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

(Grantland) – A couple of weeks ago, my wife and the baby and I were at the YMCA near our home in Houston. We’d gone there to go swimming, but had managed to show up during a 45-minute block of time that the pool was closed. Rather than go home, we decided to mill around for a bit and wait for the pool to open, which was just an excuse for walking back and forth in front of the doors that led to the basketball gym until she said I could go in there and play.

There were five guys in the gym — friends, it seemed — and they were all on the same side of the court about to start a game of 21. When I walked in, they asked if I wanted to join the game. I said yes. All of them were younger and taller and more handsome than me, so I already didn’t like them. They were also all pretty good at basketball, which made me not like them even more.

Of the group playing, there was one guy who was clearly the leader (he was easy to identify because he was the one dunking the ball before the game started), a second-in-command (smaller, but compact, muscular, and quick in a way that made him more intimidating than the guy dunking), two guys who jostled for the Third Best Player title, and a big oaf who was there just because, were I to guess, someone told him he’d probably be good at basketball since he was such a big oaf.

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