Fear and loathing on the bball court
I used to walk around the city wearing a homemade T-shirt (iron-on letters) that read: "First Round Draft Pick 1986." I had built a small rep for a small guy in parts and parks around Chicago. Very far from the greatest and nowhere close to the best basketball player, I was able to hold my own (or so I felt) against any other guard in the city not named Tyrone P. Bradley.
That was on the streets.
When it came to putting on a uniform and playing under the guidelines and structure of a coach who had a system in place, all of that confidence and swagger went out the window like faux thugs in "Im Gonna Git You Sucka." Freshman year, I didn't make the frosh-soph team. Sophomore year, didn't start. Junior year, didn't make varsity. Senior year, averaged about 31 points per game in the tryout scrimmages, yet a freshman beat me out for a spot on a team that was the defending state champ.
My fear during those high school years was a reality that was hard for me to accept: I wasn't as great of a ballplayer as I wanted to believe. And throughout my four years at Luther South High School, that fear manifested (and exposed) itself early, often and always.
One time fear came in the middle of a game when I did an "Isiah Thomas" move against the coach's wishes, which landed me on the bench for an entire game (that was one fear, of being benched); another time it came on the bus ride to a game where the guard I was going up against was an all-state candidate (that's when I overcame the "he can stop me from scoring but no one can control how many assists I have in a game" fear); it came at times when I allowed myself to worry about my height (5-foot-6). It was those times when I learned the difference between fear and insecurity.
But neither fear nor insecurity stopped me. It just took me until college to realize the true separation and deviation between organized high school basketball and playing basketball while in high school. My cousin, who to me was the best basketball player in the city at the time and the person who taught me the game, passed on to me his creed. And it was those words that made me overcome my high school anxiety: Ball 'til you fall.
Still to this day.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.