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The day my NBA dream died

Terry Dischinger was an NBA basketball star for nine seasons. Somehow he got crossways with his National Guard commitment and ended up on active military duty. He was stationed in Hawaii for a two-year hitch in 1966-67.

During his NBA career, Terry was a three-time all-star NBA forward. He was a dead-eye shooter, posting an NBA career field goal percentage of .506. If you don’t know, that is great shooting. At that time, I was also stationed in Hawaii and was a player coach of a military team. We were preparing to face Terry Dischinger’s team.

Note to you younger readers. This was before the advent of the 3-point field goal. Most games were lower-scoring then today’s, partly due to that fact.

As we prepared to play Dischinger’s team, I came up with an approach that I thought gave us a chance for victory. I, and our best defensive player, would double team Terry the entire game. The other three players would play a zone against the other team’s four players. I was looking forward to the game. It would be a fun test playing against one of the best basketball players in the United States. I think most ballplayers deep within think they could perform well, or at least OK, against professional athletes.

My team was quick and everyone could run a fast break and score. We were beating Hawaiian small colleges. With one exception, a short point guard, we were interchangeable. We could play any of the five positions. This often presented defensive matchup problems for our opposition. I knew we could score. The question was, could we limit Dischinger? I thought we could.

The game itself was a close one. I can’t remember the exact score, but both teams were in the 90s. We lost by about 3 points, so the score was something like 96-93.

Oh, and the double team defensive plan to contain Dischinger? Two of us dogged Dischinger every moment of the game. We held the hot-shot NBA star to a paltry 53 points. The two of us might as well have taken the night off. Dischinger could have scored more but he was as good a passer as he was a scorer. He wanted to get his teammates involved, and he did.

Since that night I have never once entertained the thought I could play in the NBA. The least-talented NBA basketball player on his worst night is better than I ever was on my best night.

Now fishing is another matter. Each year the fish of my past get bigger and bigger. That is OK. Everyone knows and expects fishermen to lie.

In a small way this game was a blessing for me. Do my best, pick areas that make me happy and give me meaning. As a Clint Eastwood character said, “A man has to know his limitations.”

Larry Slessler lives in Medford.

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