William M. Akin IV
Ask yourself, what is so special about a 9½ inch orange sphere spinning into a net? Some might say nothing, while to others, it means the world.
Many know this sport consists of a rectangular court on which the game is played on. Ten players on the court at a time, five from each team, as they work together to accumulate as many points as possible. However, this game is not all about just the rules and regulations, but rather can be a platform for change.
About a month ago, the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) decided not to take the court in Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic, according to Meredith Cash of Insider News. Many teams that were scheduled to play after them followed in their footsteps and decided to not play as well.
This was due to recent social justice issues involving the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old African American, and recent police brutality that has caused major unrest worldwide, especially in the black communities.
The fact that these professional teams and athletes would take a stand like this and risk their potential playoff run, speaks measures not only to these pressing social justice issues that our country is being faced with, but also speaks to the sport of basketball and how many people watch, adore, and respect it.
However, these social issues and boycotting games is nothing new. Bill Russel, 11-time NBA Champion of the Boston Celtics, has been an activist all his life for social and racial justice. In 1961, he along with several players from his team and the St. Louis Hawks boycotted an exhibition game in in Lexington, KY to protest racial injustice, according to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports.
“The hotel manager told Celtics coach Red Auerbach that he would not provide rooms to the team’s Black players, leaving them scrambling to find other accommodations.” Instead of Russel and several other black players turning the other check, they decided to fly back home and stand up for their rights.
This just comes to show that even back then, basketball was not just about the game at hand, but rather served as a platform for more pressing issues.
Another, yet tragic, example of how basketball connects people was the passing of the Los Angeles Laker legend Kobe Bryant. After his passing, a huge wave of sadness and dismay was felt all over the world. Players, fans, coaches, and anyone who has heard of Kobe was, and still is, in grief.
I bring this iconic player up because he is a clear-cut representation of how basketball is more than a sport. He put so much unseen but dedicated time into his craft each and every day. He was so motivated and driven to his passion, and that is what made millions of people watch him play.
I shared a brief moment with my father, William Akin III.
Being that he has played in his younger days and has also coached the game of basketball, he gave an insightful and different perspective on this topic. I posed the question “What skills and traits do you think people involved in and around the game of basketball learn/acquire?”
On this, he took little to no time answering. He stated that “It teaches you teamwork. It takes a team, and not just one person… With that team concept, it transitions to the working world and makes things easier while with others. It takes people to motivate other people. And to have overall success, you want to have a good team by your side.”
Coming from someone who has seen the game longer than I have, played and experienced it first-hand longer than have, and who is in the working field where teamwork applies every day, it a piece of knowledge not to be ignored.
The art form of basketball teaches and provides you with passion, motivation, and teamwork. It also is a stage that players and students of the game can use to voice their opinions, get important messages across, and to unite communities.
It might just be a 9½ inch orange sphere spinning into a net, but its impact on people and their lives makes it seem like so much more.