My Lone Damon Bailey Story

The Indy Star’s Terry Hutchens named Damon Bailey the15th best player in IU’s history, which — okay, fine. Seems reasonable enough. Arguing subjective lists is pointless and awful and best left to every daytime ESPN show, ever. All Indiana people have their own Bailey story. Here is mine, quickly:

During the summer after his freshman year at IU, Bailey was a camp counselor at Billy Shepherd’s or Billy Keller’s or some such Billy’s camp, I cannot remember. It was the summer after my freshman year in high school. For whatever reasons, our 15-and-under AAU team played Bailey and his fellow collegiate counselors in front of the campers in a scheduled exhibition game, which they won by roughly 4,000 LOLs, although the score is not important. What is important, though, is this:

Guarding Bailey on the wing, off the ball, I chose to over-aggressively deny him the pass — because I was 15 and dumb and trying to prove myself, and he was only a shooter, I figured, who could not shoot without the ball. I figured poorly. Because in a cartoonish whooooosh, he was gone, leaving only the vapor trail of a back-door cut. And in one seamless motion he went up and caught an alley-oop pass, turned his back to the rim while cocking the ball somewhere near his feet, for show — Dominique Wilkins-style — and thundered home a two-handed reverse dunk, probably a lot like Neo would do if Morpheous taught him how to dunk on an Agent’s face. The point: before his knees turned into broken sacks of kettle corn during his sophomore or junior year, Bailey was a CRAZY-FREAKISH athlete — which nobody really knew or appreciated(?), or at least I didn’t. And while we tend to mythologize Bailey’s feats in exaggerated tales of folklore and fiction, this is no such yarn. Because I went on to play four years of Division I basketball (where freakish athletes overpowered & embarrassed me daily) and never again experienced such a ferociously athletic play, not even close, the end.

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