On April 22, 2020

Movie Diary: The Last Dance

Having a Ball

By Dom Cioffi

At some point during my early teenage years, I decided that basketball was going to be my thing. I don’t remember there being an epiphany or single moment when this dawned on me. Rather, the sport slowly enveloped my attention until it was the most important part of my life.

The irony is that I almost gave the sport up in 8th grade out of disinterest. Thankfully, my mother persuaded me to play, telling me that if I didn’t, I would have to run indoor track (and that sounded worse).

I played that middle school season and did well and then attended a couple of summer basketball camps where my skillset jumped along with my height. That was when the activity started becoming an obsession.

Any free time I had was spent thinking, reading, watching, or playing basketball. I was fixated with players’ stats and league standings. If I had a project due in class, I found a way to rope basketball into it just to make it more exciting for myself.

My friend group switched during this period as I discovered other like-minded kids who were equally obsessed. We congregated at the local rec center on weekends to play and persuaded adults we knew to let us borrow keys to available gyms (back when that didn’t get you arrested).

When we got to our junior and senior years and started attending parties, my group was the ones in the driveway shooting around or in the living room watching the game on the television.

We must have been onto something because that extended group of kids (who were split between two local high schools) ended up facing each other in the state championship during our senior year. Unfortunately, my team came out on the losing end, but we sent a thrill though our city that winter as our skills and athleticism were on full display.

My love of the game was so deep that I decided to forgo my freshman year of college so I could play a post graduate year of basketball at a prep school. The idea was that one more year of practice would give me a better chance at playing in college.

Everything was going according to plan until mid-way through the season I sustained a back injury that basically hobbled me for six months. I tried to walk-on as a freshman in college, but reinjured myself in the same spot, promptly ending my dreams.

I rehabbed for months and slowly worked my way back to playing, albeit in men’s leagues on weeknights and weekends. While the stakes were not as high and the crowds were dramatically smaller, the desire to win and play never diminished. The game was my physical and competitive outlet; something I didn’t just want to play, but had to play.

I also started coaching and found that position to be just as rewarding. I realized that all those years of studying and dissecting the game could come in handy in terms of steering a team to victory. In fact, some of my fondest memories of success in basketball have actually come from coaching teams rather than playing on teams.

And then my son came into the picture. Before he could even walk, I had him tossing beanbags into a wicker basket. As the years passed, I bought him every size ball and hoop so he could practice.

I never pressured him to play the sport I loved, but I definitely nudged him in that direction. I used to tell him, “You can play soccer, but I won’t be able to help you. If you play basketball, I can make you good.”

For the most part, he bought into this idea, and through a lot of practice in the yard and countless fights about the right and wrong way to do things, he’s established himself as a very good basketball player.

And now I can say that my most thrilling memories involving this sport have been witnessing my son doing things in games that we worked on in our yard. Watching him drain a 3-pointer or make a post move for an easy layup brings me a sense of joy that few things have in my lifetime.

So, when I heard that ESPN was releasing a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player in the history of the NBA, I knew it was something my son and I would have to watch together. I love to influence him with material that inspires and ignites passion, and no one did that better than Air Jordan.

The first two episodes were aired this past Sunday with two more being premiered each Sunday for the next four weeks. I can only account for the first two hours, but if the rest of the documentary follows suit, this will turn out to be an award-winning project that anyone could enjoy – athlete or not.

A promising “A” for “The Last Dance.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Moving sticks and rocks

May 22, 2024
By Merisa Sherman Then the tough choice of how to play today:ski, bike, paddle, fish, hike, run?  The bug went down my throat. Literally, flew down my throat and landed in the back at such speed that I had no choice but to just swallow. Mmmmm, gotta love that extra protein that Vermont provides during…

What are the chances?

May 22, 2024
Vesna Vulovic is a name etched in the annals of miraculous survival — perhaps the most unlikely survival story of all time. She was thrust into the spotlight on Jan. 26, 1972, when she unwittingly became a symbol of human resilience.  A native of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Vesna’s journey to that fateful day began like that…

The Outside Story: Jesup’s milk-vetch: A rare beauty

May 22, 2024
A few ledges along the Connecticut River are home to a rare plant commonly known as Jesup’s milk-vetch (Astragalus robbinsii var. jesupii). In fact, this species, which has been listed as federally endangered since 1987, only grows at six sites along a 16-mile stretch of the river in New Hampshire and Vermont. But conservationists are working…

Boys, brothers, dad, Vermont

May 22, 2024
Building a Killington Dream Lodge: part 14 By Marguerite Jill Dye Dad made progress and forged ahead on our Killington ski lodge while Mom, Billie, and I toured Europe. Our extensive European whirlwind trip was the very beginning of my awakening to understand the world and how I fit in. I had no idea what…