Michael Jordan (John Lee/Chicago Tribune…)
I recently learned that my good friend "Joe" will soon be a father of a baby girl. I immediately began devising the social science experiment we will perform to turn his little girl into a WNBA superstar.
A little context: Joe and I are friends because 1) I am a white guy who likes rap music, and he finds this amusing (please do not tell Joe that in fact all white guys like rap music and replacing me would be as hard as going to a Wrigleyville bar on a Saturday night and seeing who knows all the lyrics to "Ahem, Ah, Uhhh, You Know, N-words in Paris"—as white guys call that song) and 2) We both adore basketball.
What we will do for young "Markleyina" (as I'm confident he'll name her) is school that little shorty "He Got Game"-style from Day 1. Remember the scene in the Spike Lee masterpiece where Denzel has young Ray Allen out at the playground at night and he's being the biggest hardass? Swatting this little kid's shots, calling him weak, making him run sprints for being soft? That's what Joe and I are going to do to his daughter as soon as she's old enough to hold a regulation basketball without drooling on it.
Because we care about basketball fundamentals. When Derrick Rose missed two clutch free throws against the Heat on national TV this season, followed by two clanks from LeBron James on the other end of the court, we were apoplectic.
"Make your free throws! What is this—Y-ball?"
"It's free. That's why it's called that. Fundamentals!"
"It's not called a 'costy throw,' that's for damn sure."
"Free throws win championships."
"You think MJ missed clutch free throws? Fundamentals!"
I told Joe that if he thinks for a second that just because he's having a girl she doesn't have to box out, then she's getting born into the wrong hyper-wealthy Western industrialized global hegemon. She'll be tall, biracial and beautiful, but so what? None of that means you come up with the loose ball, now does it?
"Oh, she's diving for that ball every time. And blocking out," he agreed. "Or she'll be running suicides for Christmas. Fundamentals."
We need to ensure little Markleyina cares about more than flashy behind-the-back passes and reverse dunks. Sure, everyone wants to be Blake Griffin and do weird Kia spots, but that's not what wins championships. With two Denzels taking her to the park, making her slap the concrete, scream "Defense!" and shuffle her feet for four hours a night, she'll need a whole room for her basketball hardware.
"And in the meantime," Joe said, "we'll feel great about ourselves playing a little girl two-on-one."
"Yeah, until the day she beats us," I joked.
Then we stared at each other in horror as it dawned on us that this was the inevitable conclusion of our experiment: One day Markleyina will be a brilliant, accomplished human being who will drill shots in our eyes like a scene out of "Hostel," while Joe and I will be cranky old men bitching about our prostates and the lack of ball movement on the Bulls' 2030-31 roster.
That's just fundamentals.
REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR STEPHEN MARKLEY IS THE AUTHOR OF "PUBLISH THIS BOOK." REDEYECHICAGO.COM/MARKLEY