Basketball Memories

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Charles Feng cherishes his childhood memories but they’re more than rosy trips down a nostalgic lane.

Once every few months, I take a stroll through the elementary school I attended a quarter century ago. I pass the fenced-in kindergarten, and acknowledge the old oak tree. The grassy field is long gone, paved over with concrete. But the basketball hoops—green backboards, red rims, and chain link nets—still stand sentry next to the playground. Every recess, we played basketball on those courts until our lungs gave out. I loved the sport, and was obsessed with the Warriors. During a game, I was Tim Hardaway with the crossover, Chris Mullin with the 3-pointer.

So I was disappointed when, as a 5th grader, I did not make the school team. It was my first rejection. I had the desire and determination, but I apparently lacked two more important factors: physical coordination and height.

I took my daughter back to the school the other day. Coincidentally, we came upon a basketball game in progress, inside the same gym where I had failed at tryouts. The current students were playing against a rival elementary school. It was the 4th quarter and the score was close. The defense was porous and there were too many air balls, but I was still riveted, imagining that I was one of those players. In overtime, the home team, channeling their inner Steph Curry, finally buried the visitors with a flurry of jumpers. They celebrated like they’d won an NBA championship.

I remember being the players’ age. Time seemed to stretch out endlessly towards the horizon. Now that I’m creeping towards middle age, I long for the simpler days of childhood, when getting a ball through the hoop was all that mattered. My friends say I lionize the past. Perhaps I can be a tad nostalgic, but revisiting the past, especially my failures, no matter how trivial, also allows me to create a coherent story arc for my life. In the process, I can figure out who I am and, just as important, who I am not. I am definitely not a basketball player. But I am still an avid fan, whether it’s watching the flashy pros at Oracle Arena or, better yet, a ragtag bunch of 10-year-olds inside a sweaty gym.


With a Perspective, I’m Charles Feng.

Charles Feng is a physician living in the South Bay.