Dribble. Breathe. Swish.


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The calm before the storm. -Jonah Gutterman, ‘21.

“Bmm, bmm, bmm”. The faded, dark orange Spalding basketball makes that funny small ‘booming’ sound each time it bounces against the smooth hardwood court-floor. As I execute each solid dribble, the palm and fingers of my right hand feel the grip, texture, and vibration of the basketball as it always does. 

Today, I’m in the gym alone. No loud fans or rowdy crowd. Just me, the ball, and the basket. The material and leather of the ball is solidly worn-in from several months of regular usage. As I continue to dribble the ball, my nose can clearly distinguish the scent of the freshly-polished hardwood floor of the tan-colored court right beneath my feet. 

As for what’s on those: I’m wearing a pair of Under Armour Curry 8 sneakers- a bright crimson red and gold colorway- the Chinese New Year edition of the shoe. The sneaker’s exceptional ankle support is essential to helping me perform at my best on the court. 

Next, I walk and dribble over to the free-throw line. It’s exactly fifteen feet from the basket; a relatively simple shot once a shooter masters his shooting mechanic and technique. Each and every basketball player has their own unique ritual and style of what works for them to make free-throws. 

A free-throw line ritual is essential. Every player has one. As for mine, I step up to the solid, horizontal white line, rub my hands together, and take in two focused deep breaths as my eyes study the rim and the basket. 

I dribble the ball three or four times, rise up on my tiptoes, and release the ball from my shooting hand. As the ball goes up in the air, as all good shooters do, I keep my shooting hand and wrist extended— a technique known as a ‘follow-through.’ 

Finally, the basketball sinks right through the white cotton net, producing the iconic and notorious “swish” sound effect; an ever-so familiar sound heard on basketball courts universally.

Once the ball drops fully through the net, it falls straight onto the hardwood, again making a bold sound. I walk over to retrieve the ball, grab it, and return right back to my spot at the free-throw line to repeat the same process over again.