During the early days of the summer, when vaccination rates were high and COVID-19 was disappearing, or so we thought, the sports world started to bounce back. Stadiums were selling out seats, gyms reopened, and you could finally walk into your local Trader Joe’s and feel the normalcy of life that was taken away from us earlier.
Before the pandemic, I was the captain of my small school’s basketball team. I also somehow managed to be the starting Power Forward, despite only being 5’7″ (67 inches or 170 centimeters) and having a standing vertical of two tennis balls stacked upon each other. I also painfully watched every Detroit Pistons game since I was nine and have ever witnessed a playoff win. Yet, I still loved the Pistons, but more importantly basketball. But, when I shifted time zones by seven-plus hours, spending a gap year in Israel, starting from fall 2019, I started to lose my connection with basketball.
Playing basketball wasn’t a common occurrence in Israel due to the program’s campus structure. When I came back to Detroit in March 2021, I had the yearning for playing basketball again with the same passion as I did in high school.
I hit up my local LifeTime Fitness, but the competition was too good for a small, unathletic Jew who relied on skills and abilities that only once dominated in the high school private school league I use to play in. I tried playing in local pickup games, but the competition was subpar, at best. There was a serious internal issue, how do I play awesome basketball regularly?
I shared my issue with friends, and members of my community, and decided that I would initiate a Jewish men’s basketball league, catering to guys from ages 20-50. The two main goals of the league were one, to have great competitive basketball games, and two, to rebuild solidarity within the Jewish community in Metro Detroit. It was on a Saturday night in early May that I decided to get to work. From COVID policies to venue bookings and security, the whole ordeal was taken care of in two days. I signed a rental agreement with my alma mater and created liability waivers. The only issue now was, how could I recruit players into this unknown league?
Surprisingly, various people shared the same passion as me. Many wanted to reconnect with friends, rabbis, and even siblings. It was on Tuesday night that we had 50 guys ready for the tip-off and we commenced our first season.
Even with power outages, security breaches, and a no-show ref, we still managed to have an amazing time. Guys who didn’t see their high school best friends for over 12 years went out and got drinks together, friendships were made and renewed, and memories lasted forever. While I was the youngest member of the 50-man league, I learned that through initiative and drive, that if you have the determination to accomplish something it will happen.
I can now proudly say we have merged this league with another local men’s league, and we are now catering to over 100+ guys from the Detroit Jewish community. Tip-off for the new season is scheduled for December 10th. Drop by if you’re in Detroit!
Look for more “Tales of a Passionate Fan” in each issue of IIFXtra