The “Walking With A Basketball” Dilemma


When you walk to the park with a basketball, you can either carry it like a tool, or dribble it like a man—there is no road between.

I used to live by a nice public park with well maintained basketball nets. It was maybe a mile from where I lived, so I’d walk it. You couldn’t really drive anyway because there’d usually be nowhere to park. So yeah, you walked. The most direct path would take you through a popular downtown stretch.

Lot of eyeballs watching to see how you handled the walking-with-a-basketball dilemma. What is the walking-with-a-basketball dilemma? Well, it’s when you have to decide between dribbling your basketball all the way to the park, or simply holding clutching it to your chest the whole time, and therefore looking like you don’t have much confidence in your dribbling abilities.

Why is this an issue at all? Why not simply dribble the darn thing all the way to the park and shut up already? I mean, it is a basketball, right? Meant for dribbling?

Well, first of all, dribbling a basketball on a mile walk through a populated, high traffic area is hard, stressful work. Especially when you suck. You have to be real careful not to bounce the thing off your shoe or the curb or some pothole, because then it bounces out in the middle of the street and cars careen out of control and slam through flower shops.

I mean, if the park is right down the street, an easy straight shot, you don’t have a dilemma at all. You can probably just dribble the basketball the whole way there. Anyone watching you will think you’re a real baller. They’ll think things like, “I bet if I challenged that dude to a pickup game, he’d kick my freaking ass!”

But when your course takes you on a lot of twists and turns, cross-walks and traffic signals, crumply sidewalks and bloated, invasive tree roots—you got a real dilemma on your hands, pal.

Because check it out: you can’t really split the difference between clutching the baseball in the crook of your arm and simply dribbling it like a man, because the alternative is worse than either. The alternative is you can sometimes dribble and sometimes clutch. Like, whenever you’re sure you can handle a few dribbles without the ball bouncing off the toes of your shoes, you can go ahead and risk it. And then, when you have to do something scary and dangerous like crossing the street or something, you can just clutch the basketball like a football.

This might seem like a reasonable enough alternative, but let me tell you in no uncertain terms: it’s not. It only highlights your lack of skill, your basketball insecurity. You look like you think you’re getting away with something. “Oh yeah, I totally got me some skills,” you might think, “I just don’t feel like showing them off all the time, ya know?” Trust me, you look like a tool. You ain’t fooling no one but yourself.

Your options are simply to hold the ball the whole time, or dribble it the whole time. Dribbling, of course, is the far more dangerous decision. You bounce that sucker off your foot even once, and everybody just saw you. People could be laughing at you from a thousand directions and you’d never even know it. Just how confident are you in your dribbling ability? That’s the question.

Then again, if you somehow manage to pull it off and dribble the whole way without catastrophe striking, you’d get mad respect from anyone who happened to monitor large chunks of your journey. When I see a guy or gal dribbling up and down a crowded city street, patently unafraid of trip-ups or mishaps, I really do think highly of that person. That person got balls.

On the other hand, if you clutch the ball like a football the whole walk over, you are immune to dribbling catastrophe, yes, but you have decided to live with a stable-but-certain amount of ridicule. Anyone driving or walking by will see you clutching that ball when you should be dribbling, and they’ll think you’re a basketball pansy. They’ll think, “I bet if I challenged that dude to a pickup game, I’d kick his ass!”

But hey, at least you’ve made a decision and stuck with it, right? There’s something to be said for that. You’ve embraced who you are. You’re cool with it.

I guess the question is: how do you want to be sized-up on your walk to the park? Are you cool with strangers assuming they can mop the court with you? Or would you rather risk everything to be the dribbling-to-the-park guy who everybody fears.

It’s up to you.



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9 Responses to The “Walking With A Basketball” Dilemma

  1. I used to shoot hoops at a park near my house and I evaded this problem entirely by just throwing it all the way to the court.

    • Bill Carson says:

      hmm, I’ve never explored the idea of throwing (or even rolling) the ball all the way to the court. Solves some problems, creates some new ones. Interesting…

      • I tried the rolling as well. It all seems more casual and self-assured like, I know where I’m going with this ball, do you? It’s very confident, you are stating that you are “above” this whole dribbling versus holding bit.

      • Bill Carson says:

        well, if I was driving by and saw someone rolling a basketball all the way to the park, I’d have no choice but to respect that person’s self-confidence and originality. This would transcend all potential judgements re: actual basketball playing ability.

  2. I think the trick is to make everyone think they can mop the floor with you and then when you show up, you prove that you got game, kind of like a poker face!

  3. zareenn3 says:

    Oh i remember that. When the ball bounces of the tip of your shoes. Yeah…embarrassing. Specially when you’re trying to impress someone.

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