LAST HURRAH: He Shoots, He Scores!

Message to Deion Sanders: don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

You know those vigorous, sinewy basketball players in the beverage
commercials who do the double-wiggle-waggle dunks and who obey their
thirst? That’s me. Totally. I have handles. I have ups. I also have
friends who will tell you a story about the time in a high school game
that I scored a layup for the other team. But there was a good reason
for that.

Point is, I’m a monster on the court. So when I heard
that the best pickup game in town is played at a gym in Plano called
Life Time Fitness, I knew what had to be done. Word on the street was
that Deion and Michael regularly play in this lunchtime game—Deion
being, of course, Deion “Prime Time” Sanders, maybe one of the most
gifted athletes ever to walk the planet; and Michael being Michael “The
Playmaker” Irvin, maybe the most stylish guy ever to appear before a
grand jury at the Frank Crowley Courts Building. Me, I play ball down
south, at the Premier Club. I figured I owed those Life Time boys a
visit. In the words of the inimitable Warren G., it was time to
regulate. So the other day, I made a trip up north to show them how we
do it in the 214.

Life Time, I discovered, is no mere gym. It is
frighteningly massive, like the Death Star of exercise, only boxier. I
paid $150 for a one-month membership, thinking I’d need multiple visits
to catch either Deion or Michael in a game.

Happy day, though. I
laced up my biscuits in the plush locker room, and, when I found the
basketball courts, there was Himself. Deion was not wearing a lavender
zoot suit. Nonetheless, I recognized him immediately. There was a
three-game wait, so I loitered on the sideline and watched. Just like
when he played for the Cowboys, Deion did not tackle anyone. But he did
run fast. He had on some fancy black Nikes that appeared to be
prototypes of sneakers not yet available to the general public. Also:
blue do-rag, sleeveless t-shirt, and heavy gold cross on thick gold
chain.

Team Prime Time won three games in a row. Then it was my
turn. I wound up with two girls on my team, which would have bidden ill
for yours truly except that one of the girls was 6-foot-2, and the
other, La’Neishea Caufield (aka Nei Nei), played pro ball for the
Dallas Fury (of the National Women’s Basketball League). Here are the
SportsCenter highlights:

Deion shakes his man, drives
baseline. I rotate over to help. There is nothing between Deion and the
rim but me. I prove not to be much of an impediment. Deion lays it in.
In my head, Dan Patrick says, “You can’t stop him. You can only hope to
contain him.”

With the game tied at 5, on a fast break, I wind
up defending against Deion. He stops at the arc. I assume the superior
athletic position and feint as if to the steal the ball. He doesn’t
flinch. I say, “C’mon. You got nothin’.” Deion passes the ball.

Then
magic. On the left wing, I pump fake, drive right, use a pick to shed
my man, and leap for the rim. Deion is there, but he doesn’t move.
Carrying around that heavy gold cross has sapped his energy. And I sink
a pretty finger roll from 3 feet. Kenny Mayne says, “We’re gonna show
it again, because we have editing equipment.”

The rest of the
game was all Nei Nei. She could shoot the three. Which she did,
repeatedly, earning several high-fives from yours truly. And we won.

Afterward,
Deion took a seat on a bench to catch his breath. I went up to him,
shook his hand, and told him, “You learned your lesson, didn’t you?”
Deion studied me. Then he flashed that Prime Time smile, as if to say,
“I’m the only guy who’s ever played in both a World Series and a Super
Bowl.”

I felt pretty good about my field trip up to the
972—until I hit the showers and the afterglow from the game had faded.
I realized then that returning to Life Time would be a bad idea,
because past results do not guarantee future performance. Which meant
I’d paid $150 to play one game with Deion, in which I’d sunk a single
shot.
Sucka got played.

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