Basketball has been more to me than just a game. It’s not just a sport. For me, it’s a lifestyle. It has shaped how I think, how I feel, how I compete in all avenues of my life. From basketball, I’ve received the greatest gift that I could ever ask for: an escape from reality.

When I first picked up the ball in 4th grade, I fell in love with shooting it through the net, feeling proud of myself whenever I made that swish sound. To see the perfect arc on the ball follow through as I confidently felt the perfect release from my fingers. I felt invincible. I was unstoppable. Nothing could keep me down while I was on cloud 9. I loved feeling in control. To experience the rush of emotion is why I play basketball. It’s like trying to recapture the first experience of your very first high after smoking weed. It’s an instant gratifying bliss that I’d want to feel over and over again.

During summer of 5th grade, my parents bought me a basketball hoop and put it in my backyard. I was determined to chase that feeling, and I would go out and practice by myself. I would practice crossovers that transition into turn-around jumpers, step back jumpers, three pointers, and any fly way that I could manipulate the ball into the hoop. I wanted to be able to control that feeling, and experience it in as many different ways as possible. I wanted to master the art of shooting and tricky footwork to up my offensive game. Back then, hours would go by and I would still be outside shooting, returning inside the house only when my mom would yell at me to “stop playing in the dark!”

Naturally, the more I played, the better I got and the more in control I became of experiencing that feeling. In this unpredictable world, where you have little control of what life could throw at you, all I needed was the ability to control my feelings. And I love it. I still love the way shooting makes me feel, and I love how easy it can make me feel that way. To allow me to escape and just momentarily forget about aspects in my life I had no control over. The court was my escape and the basketball was my vehicle. If anything else in life couldn’t keep me at ease, I knew I could turn to basketball. I knew I could depend on this escape.

Through all the drama of high school, I learned that basketball was always there for me. My problems seemed distant whenever I placed myself on the court. I would forget about all the arguments I had with my parents, girls I had feelings for but got nothing in return, and personal insecurities of not being good enough and being ashamed of what others thought of me. I would feel truly alive when I was on the court. With all the people in the stands watching, I felt like nothing else mattered but my own happiness. Many people have let me down, but basketball never has and never will.

Basketball still continued to be a blissful escape for me even in college. I struggled with wanting to be a hardworking student, but also wanting to find a group of friends I could be myself around. I’ll be real, I wanted to party too. But I learned the hard way, and would always put myself under more stress when exams rolled around every few weeks. Even during the times I had to study, I would take breaks to shoot around my sanctuary of the basketball court. I’d think less about the difficulty of my classes, and just simply refocus on what I had to do at the moment. Basketball instilled me with a stronger sense of confidence and a keen mind to help me through dark times in life.

To this day, basketball still continues to be a lifestyle for me. It’s allowed me to bond with friends, keeping up with old homies and challenging new ones. I love the sense of competition, the feeling that the defender cannot keep up with you, and the feeling of scoring the game winning shot as everyone watches. The ultimate limelight. However, at the end of the day, what I love most is simply the feeling of shooting the ball through the hoop. Dependability, feeling in control, and a much needed escape.

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