Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hoop Dreams


(page 1 of 2)

San Diego's WildFire basketball teamI’m fairly certain I had nothing to do with it, yet less than a week after I worm my way onto the court during a San Diego WildFire practice, the pro basketball team’s head coach—LaSalle Thompson—resigns. Dane Suttle, the assistant coach, is now the head coach. Thompson is general manager, the team’s roster is down to nine players, the season is being shortened, and for a while it looks like no one is going to get paid.

And that’s just for starters.

It begins with my desire to join a team practice—to get on the court with a bunch of strapping young ballplayers. The new guy, Mitchell Butler (last guy cut from the Indiana Pacers this year), is absolutely adorable. All I can think is how cool I’m going to look in the photos.

When then-coach Thompson, a former NBA player, shows me how to throw the ball—how to really throw the ball, he says, not like they taught you in high school—I make the basket. I hear the swoosh. I want to yell, “Yo, baby, yo, baby! Check me out!” but I know better. I’m 5-foot-5, skinny, nervous and wearing Speedo-brand sweatpants with little zippers on the ankles.

Instead I say, “Can you teach me how to do that spin-out thing you guys do? I saw Geno do it a couple of times at the game last Friday night.”

“Geno’s gone,” says Thompson, trying to answer two ringing cell phones at once. “He just left to play in Italy.” For the money, says Thompson. Apparently a good player like Geno Carlisle can make $100,000 for three months of play in Europe. Mitchell Butler, who spent three seasons with the Washington Bullets, one with the Portland Trailblazers and two with the Cleveland Cavaliers, played with a Lithuanian team last year.

“It’s definitely lucrative,” Butler admits. The average American Basketball Association (ABA) player’s salary is $50,000 annually.

But now back to me. Thompson blocks me from behind and shows me how to step out and around him quickly, so it seems like I’m spinning. This way I can dodge his block and run up to the basket. I forget I’m also supposed to dribble. That’s too much to do at once. “How about a slam dunk then?” I suggest helpfully. After all, the magazine’s photographer is waiting.

Thompson sighs. “Okay,” he says, and calls over Stevie Thompson. I’ve had a crush on Stevie for half an hour, ever since he asked me to rebound balls for player Jason Cox. Stevie was removing his sweatpants. He pointed at me and yelled, “You? Yeah, you. Can you throw the balls back to him while I take these off?”

So when he offers to lift me up for the slam dunk, my legs start shaking.

Thompson—LaSalle this time—thinks I’m nervous. “Okay, Pauliasi, you come over here.” Pauliasi Taulava is 6-foot-10 to Stevie Thompson’s 6-foot-4. So it’s decided Taulava will lift me to the basket so I can simply drop the ball through the net. Taulava lifts me up for my dream dunk. My knees buckle, and I’m so afraid he will drop me that I throw the ball and miss. I’m 4 inches from the basket, and I miss.

The entire team is yelling, “Hang on to the rim! Hang on to the rim!” I beg for solid ground. Taulava is laughing. LaSalle Thompson walks away, shaking his head.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego's Best New Restaurants 2015

From upscale modern Mexican to a hole-in-the-wall Thai spot, food critic Troy Johnson reveals his 10 favorite new eateries of 2015

The Beer Lover's (Ice) Bucket List

Need a New Year's resolution? Further your beer education by trying these 15 must-drink brews

Architecture: Modern Wonder

Inside Rob Quigley and Kathleen Hallahan’s award-winning East Village domicile
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Dear Chargers, It's Over
    A pre-emptive breakup letter to the team we love
  2. Healthcare Goes High-Tech
    Dr. Eric Topol is putting health care in the palms of our hands
  3. Be Seen This Fall in Rancho Mirage
    Enter To Win a 2 Night Stay Package at The Luxurious Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa
  4. Growing Up in San Diego
    26 memories of being a kid in America's Finest City
  5. Incoming: Liberty Public Market
    San Diego's big public market unveils three big new concepts
  6. FIRST LOOK: Duke's La Jolla
    For decades, Top of the Cove in La Jolla held one of the most iconic restaurant spots in San Diego. Now they've finally filled that space. Take an exclusive first look at Duke's La Jolla.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


October is Rideshare Month

Join the Rideshare 2015 Challenge and get there together

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Win Dinner for Two at Black&Blue Steakhouse

Win dinner for two at Black&Blue Steakhouse and $25 in Free Slot Play at Valley View Casino

MADE IN AMERICA — Craft Icons of the 50 States

MADE IN AMERICA is the last exhibition in Mingei International Museum’s American Icons series, celebrating 100 years of folk art, craft and design from coast to coast.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags