One of my greatest memories growing up in Savannah is spending my Saturdays playing blacktop basketball in Daffin Park, W. W. Law Community Center or at Lake Mayer. For those who do not know, blacktop b-ball is when a group of brothers get together and play 5 on 5 full court basketball. There are no referees, no million-dollar contracts, no shoe deals and no fans. This was just a group of guys playing basketball for the love of the game, nothing more.
Now when I look back on those days, I realize there are several unexpected lessons this childhood activity taught me. While there was a game being played, there was always one person on the side lines that had the rights to what we called “downs” or “next.” Let me explain, if I wanted to play, I first asked who has downs (next in line to play) and then find out if he had five people for his team. If he needed more players, I would ask if I could run with you (be on your team for the next game). If he had enough players, and no one else had downs, I would claim next. By claiming next, this gave me the right to the following game and I needed to secure five persons for my team. Finding players was never an issue, because there was going to be at least five players from the losing team that wanted to play again.
Here is the lesson; there were no criteria for selecting players. If an individual came up and wanted to play he was given the opportunity to do so. Skill level, height, or even attire never had any bearings on the selection process. Just the willingness to play and the desire to win was enough to be on a blacktop court.
Imagine if our community worked as well together as the brothers on the court. I’m speaking of a community where individuals that are willing to work, willing to do their best and willing to try hard can ask “who has next?” and be assured that they will be given the chance. What if the young entrepreneur can go back to the community, from which he grew up, and say to the other young brothers “I have downs, come run with me” or in other words, come work for me? How great would it be, if this same young entrepreneur could count on his community to support and help him grow his business?
In closing, I would not suggest to you that there were never any arguments or disagreements on the blacktop court. For if the truth were told, we’ve had our share of disputes almost on a daily basis, but the difference was collectively we came together to reach quick resolutions. We understood allowing bad behavior to fester only ruined the game for everyone, and what good is that when we allow one or two to mess it up for the masses. Lesson learned.