Basketball Court   
Daniel Geary

In The Zone

--Daniel Geary

Why do we play sports? Is it the competition? The drive to beat your opponent? Money and fame? Some could argue that all play a role in it, but for me it was epitomized when I was 18 years old and playing a full-court pickup basketball game at a school yard.


It was a nice summer evening. I was with my friend Brian, and we were looking to shoot some hoops. We strolled into a court that had a few players shooting in an unorganized fashion. We asked if they'd like to start a real game. As we said this a few more players walked onto the court, ready for some action. The teams were an interesting mix of young teens, a couple of guys in their 20s and 30s, and me and my buddy Brian.


We started playing to 21. The first game went by and we all had fun so decided to play another game. As the second game started the sun began to get lower in the sky. Not near sunset, but not right above us anymore either. We were all getting tired now, and the level of play began to get more and more sloppy. I was tired but eager to finish the game. The score was now tied 15-15, and the guy I was guarding tried a lazy pass near the top of the key. I intercepted it and dribbled down court as fast as I could. I looked up toward the hoop, realized I couldn't see it at all because the sun was right in my eyes, jumped and took a shot from the baseline. It was a swish. I couldn't believe it. A blind shot that was nothing but net. 


A similar pass on the other end of the court resulted in another fast break, and I headed to the baseline, got the pass and made another blind shot. The sun was all I could see, but based on my previous shot I had a good feeling about where it was and, again, swish.

This is when I really started to feel like I was in the zone -- at a point where I was unstoppable. I couldn't have missed a shot if I'd tried. I didn't even register the fatigue I was feeling as I sank three more shots from the same spot and was now a point away from winning the game. Everything was going my way. My defense tightened up and as I defended an athletic guy who was about 28, I stole the ball and started sprinting to my spot. I heard him curse and say, "Not this time! No way!" and heard his steps gaining on me.

This time I had to take the shot far less cleanly. As I sprinted, I jumped for a sideways fade and threw a shot into the sun. I didn't even look to see if it went in. I knew it was going in the second it left my hands. There was no way to stop me. The world went silent as I heard the swish. The guy who was defending me was standing there with his mouth agape. I looked at him and then he smiled and gave me a hug. Every player was cheering at that point. Even the losing team. 

It was quite a magical moment for us all. One of those things that make people want to watch sports and want to play them. For them it was seeing a player do what you think can't or shouldn't be done. And, for me it was knowing that I was going to succeed, knowing at that moment I was unstoppable and no matter what, I was in the zone and I was going to make that shot. The stuff backyard legends are made of.

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