Stepping on the court


Basketball is what music, books and yoga are to many but to me it is what I view as a sense of free spirit and most importantly, peace.

Born in Nigeria and being raised in Los Angeles are like two opposite sides of a spectrum. I was unable to speak my native tongue because of my brief stint in the country I was born. Leaving at 5-years-old to an unknown place the most surreal thing.

One of the things that helped me throughout my childhood was watching a lot of Sesame Street. My favorite character was Elmo. “Lalalalalalala Elmo’s world” is such a familiar tune.

It wasn’t all smiles from elementary to middle school because I felt like an outsider. I barely had any friends and my family issues were ever so prevalent. It was always bills getting paid or my dad coming home late. The world felt like it was against me while I had my back against the wall. I didn’t know how to make sense of it because I was a young boy with a stubborn mindset.

That is until July 7, 2007. I was 11 at the time and had just finished my homework. I turned on the television to see what was on that was interesting. Lebron James, or King James so he is called was the first basketball player that graced my eyes.

Lebron was a force of nature who was physically a monster. His domination of the game in the NBA finals was just a masterpiece to behold. From then on, basketball became my focus. I fell in love with the game not just physical but mentally. Lebron introduced me to the game and I gained a connection with it.

Coming home from school, work and having some days off from work was finally different. I had something to come back too. The stress of dealing with people from my day job, school, family and even friendships and relationships and financial problems remained, but I had a way to escape.

South Pasadena Middle School and Westchester High School was something I never forgot. Playing against top notch talent was the most competitive and fun thing to experience. It gave me a sense of purpose.

When my parents were going through financial problems, I always found a way to step on the court and wash away those feelings of sorrow. They even used to tell me I shouldn’t worry about what they are arguing about. Being on the court was like a way to relieve a lot of pent up frustration.

It was always something but on the court, it was a different atmosphere. Gripping the smooth surface of the ball and dribbling it on the court is a thing of beauty. I feel the weight of the world off my shoulders and a burning sense of passion to end my problems.

I look at the opposition that I am facing on the court as the problems that are building up. The things that I have gone through are the competition. My mindset on the court is to eviscerate my competition.

“Never fail to realize what gave you a killer instinct,” my dad says.

It’s 10 years later and the feeling still defines me. I will never get this feeling from anything else. I am who I am today because of basketball.