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Luring the likes of Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Xavier “The X-Man” McDaniel away from NBA retirement is no small task, I assure you. Cushy home furnishings and lounging-related activities are the universal hallmarks of ex-player life, and, let’s face it, neither of them has Michael Jordan or even Dennis Rodman-like prospects for a comeback.
But this wasn’t basketball calling for them. This wasn’t for a lucrative salary, or even fame. They gave up the gentle lull of civilian life because they had a vision.
And that vision, my friends, is SlamBall.
SlamBall, for the uninitiated, can best be described as the lovechild of basketball, football and the movie The Rocketeer. One could also summarize the game, broadcast on SpikeTV, as the perfect, long-awaited marriage between the hard-wood court and a trampoline—a beautiful, sexy trampoline with a ninja-like instinct for mayhem.
Eight armored players take the floor—which has said trampolines surrounding each basket—with one “handler,” two “gunners” and one “stopper” for each squad at a time. The acrobatic moves and punishing hits are indescribably breathtaking.
Jellybean and X-Man are now head coaches in the sport, steering the Diablos and Riders, respectively, towards the ultimate goal of capturing the season-two championship. No, they’re not putting on the pads for the squads they manage, but they are clearly doing what they can to get a piece of the Slam-tastic action—even if it means coaching, and not partaking, in the angry, physically improbable ballet that SlamBall provides.
When I heard of Bryant and McDaniel’s newfound profession, two things immediately happened.
The first was shock, because—save a brief stint with the Knicks—I had been unsure as to Xavier McDaniel’s modern-day existence.
The second, however, was revelation.
Wasn’t Harvard University planning a two million dollar renovation of our very own Malkin Athletic Center?
And wasn’t it supposed to do something vague like “boost the amount of available workout equipment by 90 percent and nearly double the space available for student recreational athletics by Fall 2004”?
Okay, fine. So the University Hall big-wigs may have an idea as to what to do with their copious amounts of money, but I think we should all ask ourselves one, fundamental question: “WWXD?”
Or, for the slower among you: “What would Xavier do?”
Why, you ask? Maybe the better question, friends, is “Why not?”
Let’s examine the facts. Xavier McDaniel also has millions of dollars. Xavier McDaniel also is familiar with sports and exercise equipment.
Xavier McDaniel was once a student, as he too went to college (Wichita State). Heck, Xavier McDaniel also was located in the Boston area—he played for the Celtics, if you didn’t know. Xavier McDaniel, for your information, is himself a so-called “athletic center.”
And Xavier McDaniel, good people of Harvard University, would undoubtedly choose to construct a full-sized SlamBall court with that money.
Before you dismiss the idea as stupid, just think about it.
How unbelievable would it be to have recreational SlamBall games whenever you wanted?
To go flying across the court in that downtime between lecture and section on any given weekday, only to put the ball three times in a row between your legs—as actually seen during the first ever SlamBall Dunk Contest—and then jam it home?
Wait. Dare I say it: SlamBall intramurals?
The existence of a SlamBall court (or two) would be enough to lure absolutely any student away from Yale, or Princeton, or Stanford, or wherever other kids are going these days. I am fully confident in the phenomenon’s ability to put Harvard University on the cutting edge of both popular culture and sports in one fell swoop.
And those, friends, judging by the various Undergraduate Council platforms and complaints in dining halls, are two areas in which we are sorely lacking within the current structure. The benefit to so-called student life under my plan would be staggering.
I want to do this. You want to do it. We all want to do it, even if some of us don’t know it yet.
When the word of SlamBall is spread, and it starts knocking American Idol off the top of the Nielsen Ratings, you’ll thank me.
So, Harvard, make it happen: when SlamBall first becomes a club sport, then works its way up the ranks to official Division I activity, we will have been at the forefront, with the groundwork already laid for a dynasty.
“Respect me, or I’ll knock you the [expletive] out,” Xavier McDaniel supposedly told his charges on the Riders in their first meeting together.
He and Jellybean had a vision that brought them to SlamBall—and to you, that vision should be as clear as day.
—Staff writer Pablo S. Torre can be reached at email@example.com. His column appears on alternate Mondays.
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