Since arriving in Greece I’ve wanted to play basketball. I see courts everywhere and the ones on the boardwalk are normally pretty full, so yesterday I decided to give it a shot and go see if I could join some games.
I went to the two courts and there were 4 different 4v4 half-court games going on but not too many people waiting to join in. I asked a couple guys sitting on a bench what the rules were and they explained in perfect english: games to 21 points, have to take it out past the arc on change of possession, baskets were 1s and 2s and winners get ball.
When I joined in the guys on my team spoke basically no English, and the guys on the other team absolutely no English.
Everyone on the court was bigger than me, some guys in their twenties, some in their fifties and everything in between. My team started with the ball, first pass of the game went straight to me and the guy guarding me was giving me all kinds of space so I nailed a jump shot. Would’ve been nothing but net, but there was no net, just a rusty rim.
Europeans move the ball better than Americans in pick up, lots of off-ball screens and back door cuts. One of the main differences here is if you cut the ball handler almost always throws you the ball, regardless of if your man is still on you or not. Back in Boston you’re rarely passed to for backdoor cuts and people often opt for safer passes. Anyways we score a few more times, but I’m not really focused on keeping score.
The guys on the other team have some real basketball players, whereas the 3 guys I’m with seem to be more like athletes who didn’t grow up playing basketball as much. So they pass up a lot of shots and the unspoken consensus seems to be that I am going to be the primary scorer. I’m not complaining.
The bad guys go on a run and the game is evening out (I think).
I kinda pride myself off my defense, that’s the only reason I played serious minutes in high school, so I didn’t expect the guy (let’s just call him Bob) I was guarding to score too much. Alas, my expectations betrayed me, and Bob made two deep three pointers in front of me and then drove to the rim and finished a reverse lay up while I was definitely fouling him.
some points-more points
OK. We get the ball and need to regain composure on the offensive end. A guy old enough to be my father makes a couple jumpers for us, but the people we are playing seemingly can’t miss, and I figure they must be nearing 21.
who knows-around 20
I ask a couple guys what the score is, Bob says “16” I point to myself, “we have 16?” He nods. I point to him “and you guys?” he says 16 again… sounds too good to be true, but I have no means to fact-check Bob.
The game is getting more intense and physical as it goes down the wire, some old guys seems determined to set a pick on me no matter where I am on the floor. The guys on my team switch on every screen which would be fine if they could move fast enough to guard Bob, but that is not the case. I have no means of communication to say I would rather fight through the screens.
Shooting from the left side of the court is no longer an option as the sun is setting to the right. I once again lose track of what the score is, but that shouldn’t really matter, I’m just going to play hard and get the W. Bob hits another long ball that I thought I had contested perfectly. Everyone starts shaking hands. One guy says “20-21” to me. Oh… we had been a point away from winning.
After the crushing loss I pull a Kevin Durant and join the guys who just beat me when a spot opens up. We then proceed to get wrecked by a god-like Greek dream team. Something like 21-10. I tried not to underestimate the players here, but I still was surprised by how well Greeks were playing. I will be going back to the courts to play more soon.