Passing the basketball gene

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I believe passion is a communicable trait. My granddaughters Lily and Ava are the third generation of Hubbuchs to care about basketball. I'm pretty sure the highlight of Lily's fourth grade Christmas will be her pair of Steph Currie basketball shoes.

I suppose it was inevitable. I was born and raised in Indiana where basketball is king. Baseball and football just pass the time between hoops seasons. The iconic movie Hoosiers ain't about car racing. My dad bought my first hoop and attached it to our garage when I was in fourth grade. I spent hours playing by myself against imaginary opponents. That's even harder than you might think because I was also the announcer, coach and crowd. I was a basketball Sybil. I always made the winning buzzer beater. Eventually. In winter I shoveled the driveway, and shot baskets wearing cloth gloves with the fingers cut off.

All that hard work paid off because I made the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Eagles grade school team. In my four year career, I averaged 2.2 points per game. But I was adequate on defense.

My three sons all played through high school. I coached them in parks and rec and the YMCA leagues. Our family lived and breathed basketball — played, practiced, watched it live and on TV. We cheered madly for the Bulls and Indiana and coach Bob Knight, who personified the game for us until he spiraled into egoism and misanthropy. Chris was a basketball manager in college and coaches his kids now that they are old enough to play. I wouldn't look at a house unless it had a good hoop.

Basketball for us was an essential part of the Oak Park diversity experience. The boys and I were, from time to time, in the minority in gymnasiums in the area. Most of the friendships we made with African Americans were made through playing and coaching basketball. Rural, suburban and inner-city boys and girls all share a desire to put the ball through that orange ring. Basketball is our most inclusive sport.

I am by 30 years the oldest participant in a 15-year-old fantasy NBA league with my sons and their friends. I tell the girls about the intricacies of feeding the post, the drop step, the cross over, the box out, denial with the off hand — all the wonderful details that make the sport so special. I have so many basketball memories.

Chris recently noted that if he had to rank-order the people, events, experiences or activities that have influenced him as a person, basketball would be pretty far up on that list.

Me too.

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