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Rule of 5s

In my old age, I play ball with a plan, whether pickup or rec league. It helps.

This plan has five parts, just as the game has five players on a team. Here is the basic one:

1. Defense and hustle first.



2. Take care of the ball

3. Get points on the board.



4. Play in the right mind.

5. Play the right way.

Often, especially lately, I start with the mental: play in the right mind, and play the right way. But even before I approached the game this way I was a defense-first player. Defense wins championships and all that. Besides that, I’m not that talented. And I do like to win.



For sure, everyone likes to shoot. I remember when that was my favorite part of the game, too. I enjoy it more now, though, trying to play the all-around game. There’s something more zen about passing when someone is open, shooting when you’re open, moving to the right places at the right time. The zone, as Michael Jordan called it.

Each of the five has five parts, which change depending on how I’m playing, what I need to work on, whether I’m playing with one nagging injury or another.

1. Defense and hustle: play with your legs, two fouls, no one drives, challenge every shot, be active.

2. Take care of the ball: good passes, don’t over-dribble, catch the ball, no turnovers, get to the right spot to help teammates not turn the ball over.

3. Points on the board: assists, take good shots, look to drive (when healthy), find the hot hand, push the ball.

4. Play in the right mind. This is the most important: Compete, keep your composure, believe you can do it, adjust to the game, play with intensity.

5. Play the right way: fundamentals, keep moving, sportsmanship, teamwork, do the little things to help win.

This is all a bit involved for recreation, I suppose. I don’t snowboard this way, after all. After pickup or a rec league game I even grade my play. Defense, turnovers, contribution to the offense, mental and overall play.

This is close to how I work. I go to the office with a similar plan, with goals and more importantly, standards of behavior ” which I also grade.

If I use basketball as a metaphor, work divides between goals for achievements ” getting things done ” and mantras for behavior and making the most of my skills. We’re human, and so God has limits as well as gifts for us. The idea is to make the most of the gifts and to, well, limit the effects of the limits. To move them out a little through exercise.

And so I hustle, strive for a balance between control and breaking fast, take my shots without fear, aim to work my people, sources and all that in the right mind, and to conduct myself in the right way.

Conducting myself in the right way isn’t geared at making friends. It’s more Kantian than that. It’s doing the right thing, even if that crosses authorities, sources, readers’ preconceptions and even prejudices. It’s really a fascinating place to be.

At the very root for basketball are to compete and to believe in what’s possible.

For life, the base for me is to learn. It’s a little more more complicated game.

Basketball comes down to conditioning ” sweat ” whatever your mantras, which ought to include perspective.

Life is not basketball. But basketball, at least for me, is a valuable part of life. And it teaches me so much.


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