Bread City Basketball


NAVAJO SWASTIKA BASKETBALL

The all-native basketball team in the photo below was balling back in 1909, which explains the swastika unis. Scholars agree that the symbol comes from India, but it is also a part of American Indian culture. For the Navajo Nation, the swastika represents the legend of the Whirling Logs. The story is about a journey down a river in a hollowed out tree. It involves multiple Gods, and a pet turkey with a lot of personality.

The important thing is that the Whirling Logs legend is a part of the Night Chant, a nine day long ceremonial performance considered the most sacred of all Navajo ceremonies. It is a healing ritual that is performed to both cure the sick, and to restore order and balance to the universe.

Sans swastikas, basketball is still fanatically popular amongst American Indians, but the group has long been severely underrepresented in college ball. Why? Because Division I and II scouts are only allowed to attend high school tournaments that are NCAA certified. Until recently, NCAA certification rules stated that all teams must reside in the same state as a given tournament. This made it impossible for American Indian high schools to participate in any certified tournament, because tribal citizens are technically not state residents.

The NCAA made an exception to this rule in 2007, and this year’s NCAA certified Native American Basketball Invitational, a showcase for high school age teams, will take place in Phoenix, July 7-11.



Why We Play Basketball, Pt. 4

It is just a game
we are told by those
who cannot play it
unless it is play.
For us, it is war,

often desperate
and without reason.
We throw our body
against another
body. We learn to

hate each other, hate
the ball, hate the hoop,
hate the fallen snow,
hate our clumsy hands,
hate our thirsty mouths

when we drink from
the fountain. We hate
our fathers. We hate
our mothers. We hate
the face in our mirror.

We play basketball
because we want to
separate love from
hate, and because we
know how to keep score.

– Excerpted from Sherman Alexie’s five-part poem, Why We Play Basketball



UNTOUCHABLE

Between 1967 and 1970, in a swampy dream of rural Louisiana, Greg Procell set the national high school scoring record: 6,702 points. It’s a stat that puts the unknown Procell into the company of names like Chamberlain and DiMaggio. His senior year at Ebarb High, he lit it up for 46.7 a game. Procell was Choctaw-Apache, and stood at only 5-11. Legend has it that as a kid, he learned how to shoot by throwing his dad’s empty beer cans into an empty foot tub. Procell grew, and his father built him a scrap-wood hoop and backboard. The backyard, perched at the edge of the woods, became Procell’s home court. At night he soaked pine knots with kerosene and lit them on fire, so that he could practice in the dark.

GREG PROCELL



WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO SCOTTIE PIPPEN?

Scottie Pippen wants to come back to the NBA.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last three months,” Pippen said last week. “I’m moving good. I feel pretty fast and you don’t forget the game. I watch and see so many young guys who don’t know how to run a team and I feel I could help someone.” The 41 year-old Pippen went on to claim that he was in the best shape of his life.

The whole situation reminds me of one of the greatest basketball short stories of all time, “What Ever Happened to Frank Snake Church?” by Sherman Alexie, excerpted below.

“I’m only forty years old,” Frank said.

He bounced the ball between his legs, around his back, thump, thump, between his legs, around his back, thump, thump , again and again, thump, thump, faster and faster, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“Basketball years are like dog years,” Preacher said. “You’re truly about two hundred and ninety-nine years old.”

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“I’m still a player,” Frank said. “I’m still playing good and hard.”

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

“But why are you still playing so hard?” Preacher asked. “What are you truing to prove? You keep trying to get all those years back, right? You’re trying to time-machine it, trying to alternate-universe it, but one of these days, you’re going to come down wrong on one of your arthritic knees, and it will be over. What will you do then? You’ve bet your whole life on basketball, and playground basketball at that, and what do you have to show for it? Look at you. You’re not some sixteen-year-old gangster trying to play your way out of the ghetto. You ain’t even some reservation warrior boy trying to shoot your way off the reservation and into some white-collar job at Microsoft Ice Cream. You’re just Frank the Pretty Good Shooter for an Old Fart. Nobody’s looking to recruit you. Nobody’s going to draft you. Ain’t no university alumni lining up to financially corrupt your naive ass. Ain’t no pretty little Caucasian cheerleaders looking to bed you down in room seven of the Delta Delta Delta house. Ain’t no ESPN putting you in the Plays of the Day. You ain’t as cool as the other side of the pillow. You’re hot and sweaty, like an orthopedic support. You’re one lonely Chuck Taylor high-top rotting in the ten-cent pile at Goodwill. Your game is old and ugly and misguided, like the Salem witch trials. You’re committing injustice every time you step on the court. I think I’m going to organize a march against your ancient ass. I’m going to boycott you. I’m going to boycott your corporate sponsors. But wait, you ain’t got any corporate sponsors, unless Nike has come out with a shoe called Tired Old Bastard. So why don’t you just give up the full-court game and the half-court game and enjoy the fruitful retirement of shooting a few basketballs and drinking a few glasses of lemonade.”

Frank stopped bouncing the ball an threw it hard at Preacher, who easily caught it and laughed.

“Man oh man,” Preacher said. “I’m getting to you, ain’t I? I’m hurting your ballplaying heart, ain’t I?”