It was a ritual. I mean it never really meant that much. It was just one of the un-written rules. After every game, both teams had to line up, shake hands and say “good game.” I never really wanted to shake hands. I mean this was my house, my court, my game and my rules. If you are from where I am from then you know that the basketball court is a sanctuary for my people. My coach he loved me. The school administration, they loved me. The other coaches and teams, they hated me. No one really loved me tho. They were just using me and calling me affirmative action, and n***** behind my back. If I couldn't drop 30 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals a game, I wouldn't have been given a scholarship. But, it was all good because I was using them too. It was my chance to show them that I wasn't affirmative action. For four quarters I was on top of the world. And nobody, I mean nobody, was gon take that from me. This was a playoff game. We were playing our biggest rival, and me, I was up against my biggest enemy in the league. I wasn't shook though. I mean I could break your ankles faster then a gold digger breaks a foolish man. Run and gun baby, and no you can't have my candy. All game I was raining down j's like it was May Showers, and saying “money” as they dropped. One more basket and I was breaking a scoring record. My enemy was the victim, and I was taking the game from her like a bully takes lunch money from the weak. At the end of the halftime, as I warmed up, I realized I had forgot my water bottle in the locker room. As I walked passed the guest locker room I could overhear my enemy sobbing from a distance. As I listened to what was going on, I could hear her father say, “if you let that n***** make me look like a fool, I wash my hands of you.” “Your a waste of my money, and time." I had always noticed her father posted up like a statue on the side line, with his arms crossed, and an unemotional gaze on his face. I had always wished that my father was there. I was so jealous that each of those white girls had their dads there, and I was the star, and my father didn't even know it. I hated her for that. The game remained close up to the final minute. I was on the foul line. We were up by 2. All I could see from the corner of my eye was my enemy's father. I could feel the animosity that he had for me. Even with all of the noise, all I was in tune with was the beat of my own heart. I threw up the first shot and missed it purposely. It was the first foul shot that I had missed all night. As I threw up the second, I made certain that it would hit the side of the rim, that would allow the rebound to bounce to her side. I stood motionless, as they all hurried after the rebound like a bunch of pigeons after a scrap of bread. She got the ball just as I had planned. I ran back on defense and allowed her to set up in three point land and get the shot off. All net. As the ball went through the bottom of the basket her team went ballistic. She made the buzzer beater, and in the same moment my season was over. Most of team mates were crying. As we lined up to shake hands I dapped everyone up quickly and said, “nice game." When my enemy and I crossed paths to shake, for the first time she looked me in my eyes, and she quietly said, “nice game number 3, and thank you”. We both knew what I had done for her. I could see a tear in her eye. As I left the arena, I walked to the bus stop. Most of my teammates drove by me at the bus stop like they didn't even see me. It was cold. I only had on a sweatshirt, because at that time I couldn't afford a coat. As my enemy rode by she stopped. “Need a ride,” she said. Most times I would have said no, but it was so cold I would have been a fool not to accept her offer. As we rode to my hood, she talked. I listened. She told me about how she hated basketball, and how her father was always wanted a boy, and how he was tying to live his dreams through her. She told me that she never told anyone these things, and she couldn't wait to leave home. When we got to my block I asked her if she wanted to chill for a little while. She was a lil scared but I told her, “No worries, these are my people and you safe here.” As we kicked it on the block with the pushers, the pimps, the strippers and the players they all dapped me up and said, “nice game lil momma, there's always next season.” We cracked jokes, laughed, hung out, smoked some bud, and did my “thug thang” as I like to call it. I was happy to be home, and she didn't want to go home. Ironically enough, I had let her have the game, and she still didn't want to go home. That night was a long time ago, but me and my enemy (I call her “pookie” now) we often hook up and play one on one. We don't even keep score. It's our special ritual now. And although we will always remain worlds a part, and will shake hands with many, it will never change what we learned that night. I learned that you can never judge a book by it's cover, and she learned that I was a human being, and not much different then she. This is the one time in my life that I didn't mind being “the black friend”, and I realized that love is love and for me my love and family was in the hood. Although there are times I feel life is un-fair and question the reasons that the hard knock life was given me, I embrace it with open arms. There is nothing better in the world then being from the hood. We come up in the hood, and we welcome into our hoods anyone who feels displaced. Strange how the poorest are really the richest. I love my people always.