Senior basketballers celebrate the big guy’s birthday

Written by Bob on November 29th, 2012

If you’re age 50 and above, you’re eligible for basketball at the University of Loma Linda Drayson Center.

LOMA LINDA (Calif.) DRAYSON CENTER – The big man gets the ball in the paint four feet from the basket. His eyes widen, his body tenses, and then with a whirl to his left, he drives to the basket, finishing with a hook shot that he banks off the glass and falls cleanly through the net.

All of the above is true, except: J.C. did not whirl and drive to the basket. At one time I’m sure he was quick and agile, and gave many a big man defending him trouble in the paint. But at age 78, it’s a slow and deliberate move to the hoop, now. Yet, J.C. is a force at 6-foot-6 to be reckoned with in our Senior Basketball League for ages 50 and above at the Drayson Center in Loma Linda, Calif.

Yesterday, we celebrated his 78th birthday with a party at T.G.I Friday’s in San Bernardino. About a dozen of us seniors shared this special day with the “big guy,” as I fondly call him. We celebrated with Al’s toast, raising our glasses, and cheering with a “here, here!” We signed a birthday card and J.C.’s basketball, which ended up filled with senior hoopsters’ names and well wishes.

And we chipped in to pay for J.C.’s meal and his desert – a banana split. We of course roasted him just a bit. “We thought we’d beat up on you (in the games) before your party,” said Joel with a chuckle. And we all smiled at J.C. as he grinned from his place at the head of the table.

And at the gymnasium before the party, we posed for a team picture for J.C. Smiles beamed all around from a group of guys that really enjoy each other’s company.

J.C. told me he’s played against several NBA players in his young days. He sounded out some names of which I didn’t recognize. My puzzled look gave me away, and he said. “Probably before your time.” Well, I am 14 years younger, so that’s some time before I began idolizing the NBA stars of my youth.

J.C. is the second oldest in our league with Bill, who heads the list at 82. And if you don’t guard the slender, 5’-10” guard, he will bury 8 to 10-foot set shots. It’s the same with J.C.

When he gets the ball down low, it often takes a double team to stop him from scoring. J.C. returned from Salt Lake City, Utah recently with a Silver Medal. His team captured the runner-up spot in the Senior National Basketball Tournament in the 75-over division. He played eight half-court games in four days, from a Thursday through Sunday.

On Monday, who was on the court ready to play with his senior buddies? J.C. of course. Aren’t you tired, I asked, after he told me about the tournament. He said he was, but still wanted to play. Proving that regardless of his age, love for the sport still burns strong.

He paid me a compliment once that I will always consider one of the finest I’ve ever received: “I like playing with you,” J.C. said. “You play hard and hustle.”

Same to you, J.C. I hope we have many more years and many more games playing together. And many more times at T.G.I. Friday’s celebrating your special day.

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