Of the millions of people around the world who play basketball, at any given time fewer than 500 are in the NBA. Less than 150 are in the WNBA Before Brian Scalabrine retired in 2012, he spent eleven seasons in the NBA, far more than the majority of players who made it to that level. He won a championship as a reserve for that Boston Celtics in 2008. He is 6-foot-9 and about 250 pounds.
But strangers can’t seem to stop challenging Scalabrine to one-on-one games. Last month a The viral video showed how Scalabrine was challenged At an overzealous high schooler gym in Taunton, Mass. Scalabrine, who played the teenager for a pair of sneakers, beat him 11-0.
Scalabrine, who averaged 3.1 points per game in his career, said this happens to him on a regular basis and conversations with other unknown former players indicated that it does so for them too. By his own account, the 43-year-old Scalabrine looked “chubby” on television compared to some of the best athletes in the world and was not known as a rebounder or goalscorer.
Even so, Scalabrine survived in the league by developing a reputation for rarely making mistakes, versatile on defense, and shooting the 3.
“As a white suburban NBA player, I have to improve,” said Scalabrine, who is from Long Beach, Calif. And was often referred to as the White Mamba, a piece Kobe Bryant nicknamed Black Mamba.
“People don’t understand how a little crazy you have to be to sustain an NBA career,” said Scalabrine. “Especially if you’re not that talented. You have to be ready. You have to be ready for the fight. You have to be like that every day. And if you don’t, you will lose your livelihood. “
Scalabrine has invited the ongoing challenges to some extent. Shortly after his retirement he took part in the promotion “Scallenges” of a radio station in Boston, in which local top players played him one on one. Scalabrine won every game by a large margin.
Naturally, even the top players In the NBA, they are often challenged in youth camps. These clips are going viral too, and the stars are happy Blocking recordings of children and teenagers several feet shorter than them. Seldom will the challenger win, as in 2003, when John Rogers, who was then the 45-year-old managing director of an investment firm, beat the recently retired Michael Jordan in a single game in Jordan’s camp after Jordan hit 20 other people in a row.
But for gamers who may or may not be the face of a franchise, they will be challenged in other ways, as Michael Sweetney can testify. The former Knick, who played four seasons in the NBA from 2003 to 2007, said in an interview that he was challenged “all along”. In fact, 38-year-old Sweetney said it happened just weeks ago to two former high school basketball players who happened to be at a Florida gym where he was training with kids at a basketball camp.
“I think, since I was far away and retired, they thought, ‘Hey, I can probably challenge him,'” said Sweetney, who averaged 6.5 points per game in 233 games. “It was fun because they tried to catch me off guard.”
Sweetney added, “I thought, ‘I’m just letting you know, I’m not going to take it easy. You challenge me, it will be competitive. It was a situation like Scalabrine. I hit one like 11-2 and the other was like 11-1. “
The two challengers were surprised, said Sweetney, who is now an assistant coach at Yeshiva University. It was another reminder: if a player does the NBA, no matter how long, they are in that moment one of the top 500 basketball players in the world.
“Yeah, I’m away,” said Sweetney. “I’m probably not in NBA form. But you still have talent and people just think if you’re not a superstar they might have a chance against you.
“They don’t know that even the 15th man on the bench is better than the average person who walks down the street.”
Scalabrine, a television analyst with the Celtics, was happy to remind the public. NBA players at the bottom of the bench may have to work even harder than stars to stay in the league, as a missed assignment can mean the difference between a job and a job.
“I can go to any gym now and sometimes find some of the best players to go through the moves,” said Scalabrine. “Can you imagine 15 years in a row? Maybe even more like 17, 18 years in a row in which you never went through the movements? “
He said that professional athletes, including retirees, have additional equipment that the average person cannot use. He called it a “dark place”.
“I’d always say things like in a game, ‘If I miss that next shot my kids are going to die,” Scalabrine said. “I would tell myself this just to get through, just to put the pressure on me to lock myself in and can take the shot. “
Lots of WNBA teams Bring unprofessional men into practice against whom Cheyenne Parker, a 28-year-old forward for the Atlanta Dream in her seventh season, is diplomatically referred to as “great competition” because “they are strong and fast.”
She added with a laugh, “But clever? Yes.”
Parker said she was challenged many times – “especially as a tall woman.” She was playing pickup last month in Chicago, where she lives, when a cocky man started talking to her about trash.
“We start the game and I get my first chance to touch the ball. I like to work on my moves during the pickup, so I do this nice little Kyrie move. I did him really bad, ”said Parker, referring to Kyrie Irving, the Nets star known for his ball handling skills. “I shot it in the face. Everyone said, “Ohhh!” It was funny.”
When asked why amateurs are so willing to challenge basketball players, Parker said, “The same reason a man I would never give a chance to still has the confidence to come up to me and ask for my number. You know? It’s the same kind of confidence that these people have to think they can even beat a professional. “
Adonal Foyle, who played in the NBA from 1997 to 2009, mostly as a reserve for the Golden State, said he faced similar challenges in retirement when he went home to the Caribbean. Basketball players are more likely to be challenged than other athletes, Foyle said, because they’re more visible. They don’t wear masks when playing and the fans can sit in the yard. But there is also a misconception among amateurs that athleticism keeps players in the league, he said.
“End-of-career basketball players are like Chinese movies,” said Foyle, 46. “You have this silver fox. He comes in and looks like he’s the one from the grave. And then he starts playing karate. And you say, ‘Oh my goodness. I didn’t know he could do all of this. ‘”
What Scalabrine calls “the dark place” Foyle calls “the stupid gene” – the switch that professional athletes have when their competitiveness is tested.
“You go to the gym. They try to play with normal people. You are having a good time,” said Foyle. “Someone is trying to get over you. Immediately flip the switch:” OK, you go down. “For me is it’s always important not to hit the other person. It’s how much my body can take from this stupid gene. “
Foyle said he hadn’t played pickup basketball in seven years. Instead, he prefers racquetball, where he is “beaten by 75-year-olds who see themselves as geniuses”.
“Part of the reason is because I got injured almost every time I played pickup ball because of that stupid gene,” said Foyle. “You think you can do the things you did 15, 20 years ago, and you can’t. You cannot turn off this person who defined your life. I thought it would be best not to enter the field. “
For Scalabrine, the reason he keeps questioning his skills goes beyond the confidence of the challenger.
“Joakim Noah said it best,” said Scalabrine, referring to his former team-mate at the Chicago Bulls. “He said, ‘Scal, you look like you’re sucking, but you’re not sucking.'”