Hoops 1 Happens: On Ways of Seeing and Being in Basketball

Hoops 1

Here are the ways of seeing and being in basketball:

I call “Hoops 1” everything that pertains to basketball as a manifestation of integrated human capacities exercised in such a way as to produce beauty and good.

I call “Hoops 2” the web of economic forces, media myths and conventions, and social ways of seeing and investing in fictive categories such as race, class, gender, ethnicity and geography that attaches itself to “Hoops 1.”

“Hoops 1” simultaneously aspires to gain access to and rebels against, feeds and is nourished by “Hoops 2”.

“Hoops 2” simultaneously feeds and feeds off, facilitates and imprisons, disseminates and contains, unleashes and restrains the energies of “Hoops 1.”

“Hoops 1” compromises with and routinely – just by the natural force of its own inexorable movement – shatters “Hoops 2,” brings it to crisis.

“Hoops 1” invents, improvises and creates.  In this it transmits style and life in the way that in breathing we transmit air:  as something that does not belong to us but that passes through is, we transform, and then let go and send back into the world for another.

“Hoops 2” calculates, moralizes, judges, and punishes.  In this it transmits repetition and mechanical predictability in the way that a clockworks transmits Newtonian physics: as a lifeless object programmatically limited to the slavish manifestation of fundamental principles fed into it.

“Hoops 1” is a complex system.  “Hoops 2” is a cliché.

“Hoops 1” happens.  “Hoops 2” is.

“Hoops 1” happens when we see the 1970s New York Knicks flick the ball quickly to one another tracing complex trails that are not predetermined but rather emerge adaptively through split second individual and collective decisions in response to rapidly evolving given conditions.

“Hoops 2” is when the 1970s New York Knicks are hailed as:  the denizens of a lost basketball Eden, an instance of basketball overcoming racial misunderstanding and conflict in society, the most perfect team ever, an example of playing the right way, or in some other way as the essence of pure basketball.

“Hoops 1” happens when Michael Jordan, with a selfish competitiveness bordering on maniacal cruelty, sets the league and the game ablaze with his unprecedented athleticism and ability to score at will in his rookie season.

“Hoops 2” is Michael Jordan narcissistically  grasping for power to gratify his ego as General Manager and player for the Washington Wizards between 2001 and 2003 and as owner of the Charlotte Bobcats during the 2011 owner lockout.

“Hoops 1” happens when LeBron James decides “to take his talents to South Beach.”

“Hoops 2” is when LeBron James agrees to turn this decision into “The Decision.”

“Hoops 1” happens when Rasheed Wallace shouts “Ball don’t lie” during a free throw, like a kid on a playground.

“Hoops 2” is when a referee ejects him from doing so, like a playground monitor.

“Hoops 1” happens when five teenagers utterly revolutionize the game and the culture, galvanizing a generation.

“Hoops 2” is when the institution they represented shamefully hides away the banners they earned, silencing a conversation.

“Hoops 2” imprisons the life in the game.

“Hoops 1” happens when our way of playing, experiencing, thinking, talking, or writing about basketball helps free the life in the game from what imprisons it.

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