Tre was my best friend in high school. We met when I moved out to Long Island from Queens during my first week of school playing JV football. Tre got benched during the first game of the season for something that wasn’t his fault; but I just started talking shit to him while he was upset and we clicked. From 1999-2002 we were teenagers who dreamed of playing lacrosse (him) and getting our indie rap label Titan Entertainment off the ground (Side bar: for those of you snickering, we had some success. We sold like 150 CD’s in a year’s span, got a song played on local radio every week, and even convinced who would go on to be UFC Champion Chris Weidman to rap with the football team at a pep rally…I forgot all about that until just now and I’m cracking up!).

Anywho, ten and eleven years after graduating from high school, we’re still pretty good friends. He moved to Connecticut and I moved to Atlanta. We’d still keep in touch but we do a little more now then we have before. We’re both single fathers due to divorce and my fiance passing away. He now lives in Tennessee while his children are still in Connecticut with their mother.

Whenever he is in Long Island, we make sure we get together and take his sons, my nephew, and Cydney down the street to Coes Neck Park to play basketball. Usually we would let them just do their thing, while he and I would talk about life while shooting jumpers and looking a lot rustier than we did in our prime twelve years ago. After doing so for a while, the routine is that the boys want to play three-on-two against us in which they score zero points and Cydney just stays on the side attempting to dribble a basketball.
Well, since the last time we did this in November or so everyone has improved exponentially. Cydney was able to dribble the ball a good six times before the ball gets away from her with her left hand (She’s a lefty) and to range from ages five-seven the boys got game. At first, it started off pretty rough for them. The boys started off with a team huddle but did not discuss defense. If I had the ball, all three of them would run to me leaving Tre wide open. Tre and I played organized basketball so teaching these boys defense was important and was why we took beating up on them seriously. Something happened this time: one of them got a rebound, passed it to my nephew, I put a hand up as he got his shot off, and it went in. Game on.

We still continued to beat up on them. Another little kid about eight years old came along and made the game a little fairer: two-on-four. The kid, Siddiq was at the park with his father as well, He sat along the gate echoing the same thoughts that Tre and I was telling the young boys: play defense, stay on your man, and pass the ball. Since kids were still running to the ball like madmen, one of us was always open. I even had a a few

moments trying to dunk but I lost my footing, a grip, or both. If it was eleven years ago things would have been different.

Being that its basketball, and boys will be boys, the injuries began to happen. One of Tre’s sons fell and bumped heads with Courtney, Courtney hurt is wrist because I blocked a shot, Siddiq jammed his finger earlier in the week and re-aggravated it. With three fathers on the court, we all had the same attitude. We looked at what was hurting, did the dad thing making sure it wasn’t major, and then in some was told them to toughen up and get back on the court because you’re going to get all kinds of hurt playing ball. That’s the good thing and bad thing about fathers. We’re men so we will teach you to toughen up and be manly, but that requires being some form of ruthless as well. I’m okay with that.

Mommies are soft on their boys, teach them to be sweet, affectionate, empathetic, and all that other fun stuff. I’m not sure about it anywhere else, but in Urban America, many of us learn some of our first life lessons on the court. Pay attention to your surroundings, multiple heads are better than one, pay attention to your opposition and outsmart them, and bunch of others and if you’re hurt you toughen up and don’t’ show you’re hurt until you get home.

God knew what He was doing giving me a girl first…

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