Lay ups in Lund

Sports and music, that’s me. As for sports, I love playing basketball most. It would not be an exaggeration to state that I used to be a very good basketball player. It was not until quite recently, last week in fact, that I realized it was “used to.” Granted, one cannot expect to maintain a high skill level without playing often, and it has been over a year since I can claim such on the court consistency. Still, I’ve played sparingly in the last twelve months and never felt as incompetent as I did last Monday playing pick-up ball in Lund. I know, boo hoo. Ok, moving on.

My friend Carl and I shot hoops one day a few weeks ago, and he invited me to come play in the regular Monday night pick-up league. Of course I would go. Researching the basketball scene is a side mission of mine during this trip. More on that later. Carl picked me up around 21:00 and we drove over to the gym. That marked only the second time in a month I’ve stepped into a car. Driving here is almost unconscionable, but when it’s cold and dark I don’t feel too bad. The gym happens to be located at the local middle school, above a set of classrooms. It could only be described as a pillbox. With a floor this small, we were reduced to 4 v. 4 games. But it’s not the size of the gym that counts, it’s the quality of the game, and 4 v. 4 happens to be a winner.

The competition level was more than acceptable, but beyond witnessing individual talent I enjoyed experiencing the Swedish variation of pick-up hoops. For starters, rather than playing first to 11 or 15, they play 5 points or 5 minutes, meaning whichever team reaches 5 points or is ahead after that amount of time wins. I think this is more a function of the gym setup. 4 v. 4 means many players sitting, waiting to play, so they like to ensure a quick turnover rate between games. How they handle a check ball is the biggest eccentricity. Instead of automatically checking it from the top of the key with any player, the player who last had the ball/was nearest the ball passes it in from wherever the foul occurred/ball went out of bounds. I found this somewhat amusing, as it led to players inbounding the ball from the corner or right underneath the basket. I suppose this method simulates a real game, but pick-up and a real game are two very different things.

Overall, the game here is played a bit more physically but players call fewer fouls and possess better on-court comportment than is typical in the U.S. – which results in a superior gaming experience. Swedes are not averse to trash talking, but I heard none take place on court, only from the peanut gallery of waiting players. Although I couldn’t understand the verbal jibes they threw out, I got the jist of it thanks to the global language of sport. A funny-looking play doesn’t need a subtitle.

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