The Adventures of Almigo: One man, no plan and everything that happens along the way

By Al Shield

General non-fiction, Biography & memoir, Comedy & satire


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4 mins


Today I have announced my retirement from the game of professional basketball.

Trust me, it's probably safer for everyone this way...

It started off with an email at work. In amongst press releases for the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater, offers to extend my manhood to biblical proportions and pictures of amusing cats, a colleague who also coaches the local professional basketball team emailed me with a request for my t-shirt size. Naturally I took this as 'One of my clients wants to give you a free t-shirt for reasons known only to them'. And while I never pass on a free item of clothing (even the bad ones make good rags for cleaning the car) it had piqued my interest so I replied with a simple 'Er...what for?'

Well it turned out that half time in the weekend's professional basketball game, there would be a short (10 mins) charity game of basketball, involving some local celebs and business people. And someone in their wisdom figured that I would make an exceptional player in said game, somehow.

Obviously they'd never seen me play otherwise they'd realize that hoping I'd do well as a baller was the equivalent of hoping your local tire fitter could publish an amazing book of erotic poetry.

Still, we were doing it for the kids ward at the local hospital and even someone as unsporting as I am couldn't argue with the fact that even if I made a right hash of it, the money would still go to the kids. So I signed the indemnity form and cast my mind back to the last time I shot some hoops.

It was back in April...1996. Yep, the last time I'd ever attempted to follow my hoop dreams was roughly 17 years ago at high school. Obviously I'd really followed on from there (with a couple of games of NBA jam) but my knowledge of the great game was up there with my expertise in advanced physics, geology and complex anaesthesiology. I'm also sure the word's 'triple header' came from porn and not basketball - which would make my foray onto the court mildly amusing at best.

(Additionally my track record for charity games of sport is also nothing to crow about - I played charity mixed netball once and a woman who would dwarf my car threatened to crush me for some reason I can't recall. Then there was a charity game of football where I punted nothing but air and bounced off about 85 kilos of unforgiving steel known as famous football player Matthew Knights.)

My understanding wife had offered to coach me (having played a lot more b-ball than I had) but figuring I wouldn't even get a touch, I rejected her offer and decided to throw caution (and on the night, the ball) to the wind.

Of course being a charity game and me being the ultimate sporting charity case, I also had to find some sponsorship money to help out the hospital. It was just $50 entry but since we're not too good at maths on our breakfast radio show my co-host and I somehow managed to find three businesses more than happy to get behind me at $100 a pop. So a massive thanks goes to Brent from Brent A Munro Floor Sanding (also a gun croquet player), Arj from Human Mechanics Bendigo and the team behind Regional Roof Restorations for agreeing to front up the cash.

(I also enjoyed the irony of having Human Mechanics on board sponsoring me as their tag line is 'We build athletes' and I'm obviously the clay before they even get started.)

$300 before I even bounced the ball - a brilliant start!

The day before the big game I caught up with a fellow charity team member who confessed that he was okay at shooting but terrible at dribbling. That made me feel marginally better because I was terrible at pretty much everything. But as long as I didn't fall flat on my bum on the night and bleed everywhere, it should be fun.

Before I knew it, it was just about game time and I found myself in the referees change room in my slam dunk best - a pair of elbow coverings that would be better suited for a jobber in World Wrestling Entertainment, odd socks, pin stripe shorts better suited for the golf course and a sponsorship t-shirt that was two sizes too big (so much for reading my t-shirt size on the email coach...) Everyone else turned up in basketball boots, I rolled in on a pair of cross training Nike's that really needed a bath. Yep, I looked amazing as I ran onto the court and instantly realized I had no idea what I was doing.

The game kicked off and I ran as fast as I could somewhere where the ball wouldn't be. Quickly backtracking I suddenly found myself at the wrong end and wondering why time had suddenly stood still - someone scored and I almost cheered before realizing it was the other team. Closer to the action now I suddenly ended up with the ball and fearing it would explode, I quickly threw it back. Somehow it still managed to get back to me and I took a shot missing both anything and everything. Game going well.

A couple more points for the opposition now and amazingly I kept getting the ball. Unluckily my guarding stills were as strong as wet cardboard and so it was pretty easy to take it off me. My endurance had also run off to the nearest bar after two minutes and I was wheezing like a Mitsubishi Magna with a million miles on the clock at only two minutes in. I was as fit as a slab of concrete. The ball kept coming and I kept missing at both scoring and shooting.

Fearing a possible riot, the mascots got involved and I suddenly found myself in a match up against the mascot Indian Brave which was unexpected. I also almost accidentally clotheslined Minnie Mouse who I discovered was somehow involved in this game and not a hallucination from physical exertion.

In the dying seconds someone passed me the ball again (why did that seem like a good idea now??) and I heard my name announced as I took the shot and flummoxed it completely. Trying to wrest the ball back off the opposition also ended up in a foul as from the sidelines it probably looked like I was trying to lock the guy into a Fujiawa armbar wrestling hold (I probably was, I've seen a lot more wrestling than basketball).

Thankfully the siren sounded and the game was over before I fell in a screaming heap. We put up an 'interesting' fight but lost with the final score 7 to 2. Oh well. I managed to score 300 bucks to help the kids, I entertained some real basket ballers with my general ineptitude and I proved to my wife how god awful I was at sports when I rolled into the house twenty minutes later still struggling to talk.

To my team I thank you for being part of it as much as you're probably thanking me for making you look really good in comparison. Thanks to all the fans who have followed my incredible career (for ten minutes) and a general thank you to the game of Basketball for letting me grace your courts for one last time.

It's time to go Almigo, time to call it a day. The torch has been passed and with me stepping down it gives some lucky kid the chance to shine. Take the opportunity son, go for gold.

I'm not hanging up the boots, I'm burning them. As I said at the start of this piece it's probably safer for everyone that way...



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