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More than a game: Basketball's return is bigger than sports

“All those things whether its race, religion, creed, ethnicity, gender. That all melts away on the court and the only question is can he play? Or can she play?"

NEW ORLEANS — Before the pandemic changed all our lives, I was lucky enough to be part of a group guys who met every Saturday at a gym near the Lakefront to play basketball. 

“We whipped you all every week and we lost the one time before quarantine, and now I got five months of trash talking I got to endure,” said David Jackson over our group Zoom call.

Jackson was holding a “championship” belt for a portion of our call.  Godfrey Perriott had a similar belt of his own to show off.  I miss the verbal jabbing between Godfrey and the crew.  Jackson and his brother Donald organized those Saturday games and we’re longing for the day we can get back on the court. 

 “You miss competing at a high level.  You miss getting a couple of shoulder checks, a couple of picks, some hits and fouls,” Donald Jackson said. 

We miss that physical part of the game, but these weekly showdowns also gave us an opportunity to talk about events in our lives, our community and our country.  We continue to do so outside the lines. 

“No matter how I dress, or how many degrees I have, or how often I’m in church, a lot of people only see me as a black male,” Perriott said. 

“Now all of a sudden people are awake, but we’ve been awake, we’ve been ‘woke’ about the situation,” Donald Jackson said.    

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“All those things whether its race, religion, creed, ethnicity, gender.  That all melts away on the court and the only question is can he play?  Or can she play?  Can this person help this person’s team?  We wish this country was that kind of meritocracy,” David Jackson said. 

We don’t know when we’ll be back at the gym, but the New Orleans Pelicans are back on the court, and back on our tv screens.  This bunch of aging men has certainly missed that luxury, but what we miss more is the bond we share through basketball.  You can bet there will be trash talking when play resumes for us lesser known players.