It’s All Over.

Last week I played my last game in the Over 40 “Master’s” League at the JCC in Cherry Hill, NJ. And I have decided to not to sign up for the next league which will begin next month. I’ve played in a basketball league in Cherry Hill since we moved to Southern NJ in 1989, 34 years ago. I have enjoyed playing over the years and I enjoy the camaraderie and competition. Furthermore, winning feels great–At any age, at any level. The “thrill of victory/agony of defeat” as was said in ABC’s Wide World of Sports years ago. As a former adman I still admire a great theme line. 

To be clear, I have never been a very skilled basketball player. My game was always limited. I rarely put the ball on the floor and don’t shoot 3s. My foul shooting was erratic. I am 6 feet 2 inches tall and I used to be able to jump a little, and dunk (a tennis ball—not a basketball). Those days are long gone. I have girth (defined as extra pounds) so when I was younger, I could box out effectively, grab some rebounds, and since I have long arms, I was an effective shot blocker.  I had a decent mid-range with soft jumper within 15 feet. Years ago, I was proud to have made the last shot in the league’s Championship game in 2011, a lifetime ago.

I am now 70 (and will be 71 in October). There are still a few players in the league who are older than I am. I respect that they are still playing, some effectively. But for me it’s time for me to go. I’ve played on several championship teams over the years, and the trophy photo above was from a few years ago, where I was a merely a marginal contributor. Again, it still feels good to win. Alas, the last team I played on was not a winning one, though I still enjoyed being part of the team.

Ever since I was young, basketball was the game I loved to play most. We had a terrific team at my high school, beyond my skill, so my highest level of competition was USY ball and intramural leagues in college. Then JCC ball, first in Edison, NJ in the early 80s, and then in Cherry Hill since the late 80s. I have always understood how the game should be played, even though I was never able to play at a high level. I tried to “do no harm” while playing, while making contributions. The 40+ “Masters” league I have been playing in plays two 20-minute halves, with refs, scoreboard, t shirts, etc. The trappings of basketball even if the talent in the league was inconsistent. The league has been improving in recent years at the same time that my skills have eroded (and my age increasing by definition), so the decision to stop is an easy and inevitable one. I had averaged 10 points per game 15-20 years ago when I might have been the 2nd or 3rd best player on my team. Alas I recognize that I am now the 7th best player (on a 7-man team). I have enjoyed playing in the league and have made friends along the way. I always particularly enjoyed playing with a fellow named Kevin Williams, a terrific guard, great shooter, with a heart of a lion and excellent skills. He always encouraged and prodded me to be my best and I played several championship teams with Kevin as our best player over the years

Moreover, I have always understood that success in a team support like basketball and success in business are closely aligned. The formula for success is simple:

Talent + Teamwork = Success.

Talent alone is insufficient. Teamwork, while admirable, without a high level of talent is also insufficient. But when all the “players” are aligned and work together toward a common goal, success can be had.

I’ve not been injury free as I have broken my ankle 3 times playing basketball over the years—junior high, college, and 25 years ago. Nonetheless I felt I was less injured than most and was able play into my early 70s, so I have regrets. I’ve recently begun playing a more age-appropriate sport, pickleball, which is also fun and competitive, though not as physically demanding. It still provides an adrenaline surge, so I hope to improve my skills and play at a higher level. We’ll see.

But alas, no more basketball for me. I will miss it. But I am enriched by having the experience of playing.

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