After reading and reviewing The Book of Basketball (the previous post) it made me think of a friend who if he were around today, would have loved it. A little more than a year ago, I put pen to paper to and described what it was like playing basketball with him.
Here it is:
Finally, how can we have a time machine basketball game at 51's without Wheatley? IT COULD NEVER HAPPEN. Was there anybody more natural with a ball and bat in his hands? You know how some comedians can do uncanny voice impersonations? Wheatley could watch a great pro once, see him make great move, and then replicate that move the next time he stepped on the court. With no practice. Trying it for the first time with defenders draped all over him. No one had better hands, no one had better feet, no one had better body control. It's weird, he couldn't jump high, but he could jump twice before most people jumped once. He wasn't fast, but he was quick. He would get a half step on a defender-and it was over. He would use his body to gain leverage, and it was over. He wasn't tall, but fu*k, he could post people at will, using his ass to create distance. He knew ever angle, on every court, before Tim Duncan brought in back, Wheatley was the last guy to consistently use the bank shot as a weapon. His was a 1970's game, with a healthy dose of 1980's trash talk. I loved playing with him. He had total confidence in my game, which was an unbelievable boost. Whenever we were on a fast break and someone turned the ball over, he would say "Just give the ball to Baldman!" Whenever I would feed him on the break, right after he scored or even while he scored he would yell STOCKTON! as a way of acknowledging my pass. Trust me, I did not write the last two sentences to brag about myself; I wrote them to show how much this praise meant to me at that time. Getting Wheatley to praise your game is like Bill Gates coming up to you and saying "That's a hell of a computer you're building." It's something you notice, you know? I had a dream about Wheatley last week. Recently, I was hospitalized with an infection. In the dream, Wheatley entered my actual hospital room, gave me a cake, and left without saying a word. That's some weird sh*t, right? OK, let's end this section by saying if there ever is a time-machine game at 51's and Wheatley is not playing, I want to be notified. I will bring a class action lawsuit against the game's organizer, on behalf of all those who loved playing with him.