Kenneth Knepper: Basketball jones turns into groans

Kenneth Knepper

As 40-something father of a 9-year-old, I’ve come to realize there are certain things he can do that I should no longer attempt.

Among those are:

- Purposely attempting to place my right leg behind my ear.

- Perfecting an endless number of somersaults across the family room without the sudden, overwhelming desire to vomit violently.

- Eating anything in one setting that contains more calories than an entire little league football team.

- Practicing blocking drills with a fully suited member of said football team.

- Literally, any facet of soccer — a sport that requires the player to have an ability to move and kick at the same time.

The latest addition to the list unfolded after my son’s first basketball practice of the season when, surrounded by a few members of the team, I attempted an impressive display of Michael Jordan-like spin moves while dunking a basketball on an 8 1⁄2-foot goal.

Maturity has a strange way of making one forget experiences that should have solidified his goal to remain firmly on the ground.

I was 19 years old with more brawn than brains when I attempted to dunk a basketball on a regulation goal, only to discover I had not jumped high enough to clear the rim.

In the instant when my arm stopped moving forward, I had a momentary lapse of reasoning … probably because I had a lengthy history of missing dunks, anyway.

A second later, when I realized the rest of my body didn’t stop moving forward, real concern piqued, just before I wound up in heap on the court with a broken ankle.

The worst part was, up until that moment, the person I landed on probably was impressed by my ability to leap, vertically.

Today, I carry around an extra 40 pounds, which places me in the same category as the rhinoceros in terms of vertical leaping. Hence, my use of an 8 1⁄2-foot goal for displaying moves that would make the most seasoned basketball fan blush with envy.

Or, in this case, just blush.

Since our team uses a women’s regulation basketball, I easily grabbed it one-handed and took off from the free throw line. There was a time when I started from that point because I wanted to impress people with my leaping ability, but now, it’s simply to gain enough momentum to get off the ground.

The same principal explains why runways have to be longer for large jets.

My first dunk bounced high off the back of the rim, landing somewhere just outside the three-point circle. To a chorus of laughter, I retrieved the ball and tried again.


As I retrieved the ball for a second time, I understood I would need a little more distance between the floor and me.

Stepping closer to the goal, I grabbed the ball with both hands, stood in a crouched position and with every ounce of strength attempted to levitate myself eight or nine inches beyond my reach.

Just as the ball swished through the net, I felt the tiniest tingle in my lower back.

So, after following with a one handed jam, I put away the ball.

Sometime around 2 a.m. the following night, I found it impossible to sleep. I scooted out of bed and tried hanging from the rafters in the basement utility room.

However, all that accomplished was knocking loose a few dust bunnies, which fell right in my eyes.

Since the sound of “clump, shuffle” as I walked down the hallway had awaken my wife, I asked her to twist my legs back and forth as I continued hanging.

After those ideas failed, I slept on the floor.

Today, wearing an icepack on my back and ingesting copious amounts of Ibuprofen as the distinct aroma of analgesic fills the room, I remembered why it had been more than 20 years since I last attempted to dunk a basketball.

The next time someone asks me to show off my unique basketball skills, this moment will come to mind with vivid recollection. Then, I’ll start from a little closer to half court.

That way I can surely get enough hang time to impress them. 

Ken Knepper is publisher of The Newton Kansan. He can be contacted at