a thing about layups and lions

Back in the day before the game quit us,
We’d balled down at the rec center with an old guy
Who went by the name of Terry Easy.
He was there every afternoon, every night
(As far as we knew, he’d been there forever,
The joke being Hell, man, Easy was there
Three minutes after they got the floor down.
Big old dude, but you could tell from the way he moved,
Even the way he walked, that he had game at one time,
Though he’d gotten to the wrong side of the transition
From solid to just plain fat
(We’d woof at him Easy, you get any more flab on your titties
And we’re gonna have to go from shirts-and-skins
To bras-and-blouses, for chrissakes.)
And he played with coke-bottle glasses so thick
You figured he couldn’t hit the backboard from outside three feet.
Still, if you didn’t pick the man up a few steps across half-court,
He’d bury you with set shots –‘course, if you played him too tight
He’d just back-door your ass for layups all night
(As far as playing D went, Easy was pretty easy pickings,
Though he’d try to make up for a lack of foot speed
With old man tricks–locking his knee behind yours
To push you off the blocks, a quick grab of the shorts
As you cut through the lane, stuff that starts fights,
Though taking a shot at Easy was just something you didn’t do
Something unspoken that you just knew was out of bounds.)
Between games, Easy would tell stories about his playground days:
He’d played on all the courts with all the legends,
16th and Susquehanna with Lewis Lloyd and Sad-Eyes Watson,
48th and Brown with The Pearl,
Ridgeway Playground with Wilt and Hal Greer.
One day Easy was telling a story about how Greer,
Playing out the string with a Sixers team
That won nine damn games all season,
Was playing against Wilt one night when the Lakers were in town.
Hal went down the lane, and Wilt was right there,
Getting ready to swat the pill…hell, eight, nine rows up,
Maybe halfway to Doylestown, but at the last moment
He pulled his hand back, and let the ball tap, tap, tap on the rim
Before it dropped through for two (For old times’ sake, Wilt said later.)
Hal didn’t see it that way, giving Wilt a shove and glaring at him
All the way back down court, and after the game
He stormed into the Laker locker room,
Screaming Where the fuck is Wilt? I’m gonna beat his ass!
And, catching sight of the big man, hollered ever louder
You play it straight with me, motherfucker, you hear me?
You never disrespect my ass on the court again! Never!
All the time two or three guys holding Hal back
(And understand, Wilt was the biggest, baddest man in the game;
Hell, one time he picked up Mel Daniels,
Six-feet-nine of evil and bad temper, like a Raggedy Andy)
And the big man never said a word, ‘cause he knew was wrong,
So Terry told the story, anyway–and Easy should have stopped right there,
‘Cause the story was over, but old men get foolish, get all soppy,
So he says Hal was right, understand–you just can’t do that to a man.
Old player like Greer, maybe all he’s got left is his pride,
Like some old lion who can’t hunt no more, but he’s earned that.
Gotta let a lion have his pride, and after he finished
All the young ‘uns just hooted at him
Man, Easy, you do go on, and for months afterward
Every time the dude covering him turned his head
And gave Easy an easy bucket, everyone on the court
Would just laugh, and yell That’s good huntin’, man.
Roar, lion, roar.


4 thoughts on “a thing about layups and lions

  1. I liked this a lot, W.K, and I know my buddy Steve Myers will love it a lot, too, being that his favorite book is “The In Your Face Basketball Book”. (A book that my picture is actually in, but that’s another story! It IS a small world!) I must be getting old, though; I remember both Chamberlain AND Hal Greer! But I don’t recall Mel Daniels playing in the NBA, only in the ABA; I forget what team(s). I used to get Mel Daniels mixed up with Jim McDaniels, who was a 7 foot center for the Carolina Cougars in the early 70s. (“Oh, PLEASE, Dad,” I recall begging to my father. “We GOTTA go down to Island Garden to see the Nets play the Cougars!!!! Jim McDaniels is on the Cougars, and he DUNKS the ball so hard!!!!” That was a big deal in those days; not like today when every other shot (yawn) is a dunk.


  2. While there is whole lotta fiction in this, the part about Wilt and Mel Daniels is true–this happened when Wilt was coaching the ABA team in San Diego–the two team got into it a little, and Wilt picked up Mel like he was a sippy cup. That tale comes courtesy of Terry Pluto’s Loose Balls , which is a must-read for someone who remembers Jim McDaniels and the Island Garden.

  3. man, I dig this. I didn’t but my mom grew up in Philly, Germantown, and her brother grew up in an orphanage in Warminster, and my ex-wife has family in Doylestown. Something about this piece just rings so true ~

  4. Nice piece, very old school stuff, which I enjoy. I don’t go quite that far back, but can remember when Darryl Dawkins was smashing backboards at will, and Pistol Pete Maravich was just this side of completely untouchable.

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