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Ballad Of An Aging Champion

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I recall him at last season's end
Reluctantly leaving the floor,
His shoulders slumped in final defeat,
His silent fans contemplating retreat,
Another inglorious campaign complete
Like so many others before.
Five years with a champion's heart pounding strong
Without earning a championship more.

His companions change every season,
Except for a rare mate or two:
An undersized point guard, that French whirling dervish,
An Argentine scorer whose dashes are curvish,
A haggard wine farmer who makes the scribes nervish,
But the rest of his helpmates are new;
(Unless you include the return of the pal
Who helped capture ring number two.)

The Frenchman's the first of this trio,
The youngest of all of these vets.
His fearless endeavors among the treetops
Are enabled by all of his quick starts and stops
And his quickness. Plus there are his DJ-ing chops,
And his penchant for crepes and baguettes.
Though some folks would like him to pass a lot more
He deserves far more praise than he gets.

Next is the thin Argentino
His beak seeks out trouble, it seems.
His skill to anticipate just the right play
Is exceeded only by his curious way
Of hurling his body straight into fray
In spite of the danger he deems.
His shooting and passing can inspire awe
And he always plays to the extremes.

The coach is both gruff and sagacious
His brain the unusualest kind.
While most of the men that endure his profession
Are somewhat resistant to change, his possession
Of crafty insight, plus a touch of depression,
When outcomes remain less than kind,
Lead him to adjust. Call him "Pops" if you must;
Later he'll raise a glass to unwind.

The rest of his teammates are youngish.
They each have a role, big or small:
There's a kid without knees who swallows rebounds,
His occasional lackluster playing confounds,
But his tweeting and jovial smile know no bounds,
And his hustle keeps watchers in thrall.
For a center who plays in the Association
He isn't especially tall.

His youngest teammate plays small forward,
A rookie, just twenty years old.
His head is cornrowed with the tightest of knots,
He reliably swishes his corner three shots,
Or drives to the basket without second thoughts
Of anyone stopping him cold.
His sticky defending and basketball smarts
Are most beautiful things to behold.

There's the red-headed lad from New Hampshire.
For him sandwiches are a treat.
His three point percentage is without compare,
His dunking is just as red-hot as his hair,
His towering shy hooks don't always quite fare
As well as he'd like, but they're neat.
His defensive prowess leaves room for debate
And at times his shoes flop off his feet.

Did I mention the green New York native?
He plays like a vet, though he's not.
When his shot is falling, one weird thing I've seen
Is his unique ability, so rarely seen,
To turn website gamethreads entirely green
With a flick of his long distance shot.
A head for the game, and toughness to match;
A loser he's certainly not.

Perhaps I should mention in passing
The second-year man from Brazil.
Though some people think him especially dreamy
He's no pretty boy, and his instincts are team-y;
His pick-and-roll prowess gets audiences beaming
Unless you're an ignorant shill.
His sparkly visage sells trucks on the side;
He shoots free throws with consummate skill.

Which brings me to the sharpshooter
Who likes to play point man, I've heard.
He once was considered the league's oldest rook
He also sells trucks in his spare time, but look
It's Texas, so don't be too harsh. In my book
He's worth more than your average nerd.
When pressure is high he is eager to shoot
With a hand in his face, undeterred.

Many more are our hero's companions
And how this band must make him smile.
But that's a look he has shown seldom before;
His stoic demeanor is what he's known for,
"Leave the reporters and fans wanting more,"
Seems to be his most natural style.
You have to look closely to catch him emoting
Though his eyes sometimes widen a mile.

What will become of this man and his men?
How will this story, their odyssey end?
Though the season thus far has them playing for keeps,
There have to be moments when nagging doubt creeps
In and troubles the thoughts of our dude and his peeps,
That the playoffs might not be their friend.
This season must seem quite familiar to them,
Like last year, and all that portends.

Why does he keep coming back, anyway,
This fellow with so much success?
He isn't the sort that would crave further glory,
Every honor's already in his inventory,
Whenever the book closes on his great story
There's nobody left to impress.
What drives him to drag his knee brace up the floor,
Through a season that must seem endless?

It's the heart of a champ you just can't overlook,
And our man has got one, that's for sure.
There are nights when the body won't gladly respond,
When his younger opponents are going beyond
What he's capable of at his age. When the bond
Between body and heart seems less sure.
But more often than not are the nights when what's left
Is enough to fight on and endure.

We love how this champion can laugh at himself
Truly humble, despite his four rings.
O-L-D, as if he were paleozoic;
Perhaps we love him because he's so stoic;
He's a hero because he is so un-heroic,
Because he does regular things.
He's a guy who puts ultimate trust in his teammates,
And who's happy to cheer from the wings.

One of these days -- he surely will finish,
He'll draw his career to a close.
But I don't think that will be anytime soon;
He's got games to win, rings to try for. The moon
Hasn't risen upon his career, and the noon
Sun still bathes him in yellow and rose.
When he takes his last long stride to the locker room
We can say, "That's the champ. There he goes."

by Mrs. Wilco