Finally have Internet at the house – this post should have run 3/22.
Even in the off chance you paid attention to MPSA basketball in the early 2000s, you missed my basketball career. It was the definition of unnoticeable – while I was on the varsity squad, I averaged less than a minute a game, and got more minutes than other stats (with the exception of fouls – I once played only the fourth quarter of a game and almost fouled out). My intramural career also began in high school as the coach of the illustrious Jacktown Smackdown dynasty. It wasn’t really a dynasty, but we did win a championship our senior year, and it is to date the greatest accomplishment of my basketball career.
I didn’t play much because I wasn’t very good. That’s easy enough to understand. I was a Forward/Center and I was 6’2″ and weighed about 170 lbs. So what that should tell you is that I was really, really slow and uncoordinated, because 6’2″ 170 is a good size for a guard. But I was a center. So there’s that.
I also had a terrible attitude. To this day, I think one of the biggest blessings the Lord gave me was making me bad at sports. I argued with refs, talked trash to other players, celebrated obnoxiously. I threw a punch in a game and also threw a ball at another player (two separate games). I got ejected from multiple intramural games at Ole Miss and even got banned from intramural basketball for a season (it was for arguing with a ref. I didn’t hit anybody or anything). When I think about every fight I ever got in throughout high school, it probably involved basketball in some way. And people probably should have seen it coming – I got nicknamed “little Rodman” in church league basketball one year because all I did was rebound and have a bad attitude.
Simply put, I was a punk on the basketball court. I loved the game, I loved my school, and I wasn’t afraid to let anyone know it. My love for sports message boards even started then as I found a board that discussed Mississippi high school sports, and I would regularly mix it up with old guys I’d never met to defend my high school.
I quit playing basketball in any organized fashion for a while, until I got on a church league team in Madison three years ago. I kept myself under control, but quit because I could feel that part of me coming back. Basketball (and I guess in a sense competition in general) has that effect on me.
On the other hand, if you paid attention to sports at all this year, you know the name Marshall Henderson. He’s the brash, gunslinging guard who happens to play for my alma mater. He talks a lot, scores a lot, and occasionally does stupid stuff that pisses everyone off. So basically he’s just like me except that he’s good at basketball. Yeah, he has a rough past, but as far as anyone knows, during his time in Oxford he’s kept himself out of trouble.
He’s become a bit of a media circus. A Tennessee 247 writer (which, to be clear on something, I have a hard time taking a lot of 247, Scout, and Rivals writers seriously, because too many of them – though not all – are nothing more than glorified cheerleaders) whined about him for a full day after he dropped 30 on them in Knoxville (the same writer remained noticeably silent when people commented on how personable Henderson was and how he always made a point to shake hands with the other team and coaches). Gregg Doyel, also a hack, took up a campaign against him. Some New York Times writer (don’t remember his name) included him in a piece that was pretty much just crying over kids having fun playing basketball. Seriously, the guy complained about the FGCU players shaking hands with Reggie Miller after a game.
And let me be clear – the criticism isn’t entirely unwarranted. Like I said, he’s brash. He’s cocky. And in an era, especially in sports, where nothing is good enough, of course he’s going to be blasted. And I really do wish he’d tone some of it down – but if he sticks around in Oxford for another season, and stays out of real trouble, I can take the good with the bad.
All this is to say – I get why people don’t like it. I get why opposing fans boo him and all that stuff. But I also get why he does what he does.
I don’t know where I’m even really going with this. I’m aware I probably wouldn’t like him if he didn’t play for Ole Miss. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. But I also feel like criticizing a guy for getting a second chance (or third, or fourth…whatever) and handling talent and fame way better than I ever could also makes me a hypocrite.
Plus, we just won an SEC Tournament championship for the first time in my life, so that has to count for something.