Tyreek's Rise in Basketball

I haven’t always been a good basketball player. Many of my friends believe that I’m a solid point guard and very talented at that position. I earned two nicknames. I was called either Russell Westbrook or LeBron James. Many people admired my playing style and skills, but obviously I haven’t always been this good. At a young age, my left knee was not healthy and for years I suffered through knee pains. My mom often wondered why I was limping. She thought I was just walking funny at first and ignored it. After awhile I started complaining about my knee and that it hurts to walk. She didn’t know whether to believe me or not because I had a history of playing around a lot at home as a kid.

After 2 years, she finally made an appointment to see what was wrong with my knee. It turned out that two bone joints in my knee were rubbing together which was not good. I don’t remember what the medical term was but I understood that it was very serious. The doctors said this had to be like that all my life, but as I grew the pain started to grow as well and I felt it more and more. The doctors then suggested that I should do physical therapy for about 2 months.

After I completed it, my knee still had problems. A month or two later, I went back to physical therapy again. That also did not work at all. Being in and out of physical therapy twice sucked for me,I felt like my knee could never get better. I was tired of having knee pains especially when I’m active. I did various exercises that I was instructed to do at first, they were difficult but after awhile of getting used to them, they became easier to do.  When I was in 7th grade they suggested that I needed to have surgery to stop the pain or at least decrease it. I went through with the operation.

It was a Friday morning, I could remember my parents and siblings being there with me in the hospital sitting in the back waiting for the doctor and nurses to come take me to the operating room. I was laying down on the stretcher, waiting. One of the nurses explained what was going to happen and gave me medicine to drink that would make me fall asleep also with some juice to get rid of the funny taste it had.

As the the two nurses were talking to my family I started to feel sleepy, after about 10 minutes and I was out cold. When I woke up, I was laying down in a different area still feeling sleepy just a bit. I looked to my side and saw my mom approaching with some juice to give me. She asked how I was feeling.

“Good", I said as I tried to pull my back my covers to see my leg. My mom at first tried to tell me to relax until it was time for me to go, but my eagerness to see overcame me. I struggled to pull the covers back until my mom helped me. I took a look at my leg. It was covered in bandages and a big black cast to keep it from bending too much if I moved it. My leg was as stiff as a log. The nurses and doctor came to greet me once again. They said the operation was a success. They said I wouldn’t be able to bend my leg or walk on it until my stitches healed up after completing physical therapy for 3 months. I used crutches for two months as well. They grabbed a wheelchair for me, my dad wheeled me out and into his car to drive home.

I missed a whole week of school because the doctors suggested I be on rest for about that long. I really wanted to go to school and show off my toughness to my friends. I often became so bored because I stayed in my bed the whole week and I couldn’t go anywhere but to the bathroom and my mom often had to help me hop there because there’s about 4 steps to go up right outside my room leading up to the bathroom and I mostly never had the energy to make it by myself. When I walked into class on morning with my crutches, everyone stared at me as I headed towards my seat. My friends that I sat at the same table as asked me what happened. I told them about the surgery. They asked me a lot of questions about it including how it felt afterwards and I answered all of them.

I later discovered that the surgery meant that I couldn’t play basketball for awhile. Basketball was definitely one thing that contributed to my knee pains in the past because it’s a sport that requires a lot of leg movements such as running and jumping which could put a lot of pressure on my knee joints and cause too much pain for me to handle at times. I loved the sport so much though and I was good at my position. Since I was taller than most of my friends, I was a big man or played center. My role was to mostly stand near the basket to grab rebounds, score, or block shots.

During the process of healing, It felt like what others would refer climbing Mt. Everest as; very impossible. I went to physical therapy twice a week for 3 months as instructed. I did every exercise that my therapist told me to do. The first few weeks were focused on getting me to be able to bend my leg, the next few was strengthening it, then getting me to walk normally, and the final few were a mixture of all. I had to do many different painful leg exercises to get my knee back in shape. Although I couldn’t still yet bend my leg far enough to make my calf touch the back of my thigh and the doctor said I was medically cleared, I still was determined to make it better. I continued to do the exercises at home like my physical therapist suggested I’d do. I finally stopped when I felt like I didn’t need to do it anymore. My mom said that I shouldn’t stop if I didn’t want to run into anymore problems. Being so naive, I didn’t listen. I felt great and I could finally get my calf touch to the back of my thigh. I thought nothing could go wrong.

After the process of recovering I needed to get better at basketball. I didn’t play at all for at least 3 months so I had to be really rusty. I practiced a lot when it got warmer outside, but I noticed that there was a difference over time as I played. My vertical jumps and running jumps weren’t the same anymore. The operation did help decrease my pains, but it also decreased my leaping ability. I felt horrible because my friends were starting to grow and that meant that they could touch what I used to be able to touch when I jumped. I felt so small compared to everybody.

What actually hurt me the most is that the doctors said it would be a miracle if I were to grow to be over six feet tall. It hurt me a lot. I knew what that meant for me. I had to do what I always tried to escape doing since I started getting used to how I played basketball. I had to be a point guard if I wanted to be in the NBA. All point guard are required to have above average ball handling skills, very high basketball IQ, and be able to shoot jump shots sometimes. They’re basically the leader on the court for their team. I sucked at dribbling, I wasn’t that smart on the court, and I couldn’t shoot at all unless it was close to the basket or sometimes a mid range jump shot. Going through knee injuries really make it hard for you to play the same way in a sport such as basketball. I used to love driving to the basketball for layups often since I was usually stronger and faster than my opponent.

Things changed as I started to shoot 3’s more and more. I was scared to get  hurt. I was never known to be a good three point shooter in basketball and I can admit I was terrible at it at first. Driving to the basket definitely is very scary because you could potentially injure your leg somehow. That’s why I started shooting 3’s more. I needed to make some big changes though and I needed to make them fast. Just standing at the three point line to shoot 3’s wasn’t going to cut it for me. It was time to be aggressive. I started training with my nephews who were around my age all the time to get better. I did get better, but not high level point guard status.

In eighth grade, I joined the basketball team. I was very excited to play because it was my first time playing in any league. Well let’s just say it didn’t live up to my expectations. In the first game, We played a team who had mostly tall players who were at least 6 feet tall or taller. Our tallest player was 5’9”. I started that game at power forward as planned. I was being thrown around like a ragdoll in that game. There were many rebounds that I could have grabbed but didn’t because I wasn’t playing hard enough to grab them from the taller guys. Deep down, I was scared to get hurt.

We ended up losing that game and I also lost my starting spot to a friend who was one grade under me. It was tough dealing with losing my starting spot because that’s what I wanted. I did end up accepting my role coming off the bench  after the first 3 games or so. I may have not been a good rebounder for my team but I did play outstanding defense. In one game, I stopped a guy who had to be at least 6’5” from scoring to help us take the lead. We won the game even though it was really close. I did play good in a blowout win the previous game. I finished with what I could only remember was four points and two blocks. It was the only game I scored in and it made me gain my confidence in playing like myself again. I worked hard during the summer to gain a consistent jump shot and better dribbling ability.

A year later, I had already emerged as a good player in my first year of high school. I impressed a lot of my peers. It all happened that day. It was July 30, 2016, As I walked in through my front door from hanging out with my friend, I noticed that both my parents and stepmother sat in the living room as if they were expecting me. I greeted them and ran upstairs only for my mom to call me back down when I was halfway. She clearly wanted to tell me something important.

She told me to sit down next to her. She reached for my hand and held it with hers. I thought she was going to tell me that we were going out somewhere special. I was actually the words I never thought I’d hear. She said “Your brother, Lance. He’s dead.” All I can remember is a strange feeling that I’ve never had before explode in my body. I quickly rushed upstairs to the bathroom and slammed the door shut, locking it afterwards. My chest felt like someone reached in and snatched my heart. I loved my brother really much. He was the reason I even started playing basketball. He taught me a lot about basketball. He was my mentor and now I felt like I was on my own. I do remember our last one on one conversation about it. He wanted to know what position that I wanted to play so that he could teach me how to play it well. I wasn’t sure of my answer at the time, but he told me to start seriously considering it at my age. After his death, I didn’t play basketball until the middle of September.

Moving on from the situation was very tough. I still struggle with the thought at times. One thing that I know for sure is that I have family and friends who have my back no matter what. I’ve had talks with them before about situation. I haven’t opened up fully to anyone about it. I managed to keep all my feelings to myself. The main thing that fuels me to be a great point guard was him. I strictly was against having off days when I played. In the book “The Yellow Birds”, the Bartle faced many changes during his time at war in Iraq. His best friend was killed and he had to live with that. He showed signs of PTSD but tried to resist help.