It started off as a hobby — every kid has one. Elementary is all about running through those career ideas that will sound hilarious ten years up the road. I remember, even as fifth-graders, how we'd laughed with airs of great wisdom and knowledge at their dreams of being tooth fairies and Santa's elves. The truth was, when you're a kid, everything seems possible.
We like to joke that my brother was born with a basketball in his hand. He didn't really grow an interest in the game till he was around four or five years old, but nowadays, it's difficult to remember that there was ever a time when we could see him without his ball; the constant sound of dribbling in the home does nothing to debase that notion.
Basketball isn't really considered a "brown person" sport. My relatives in Pakistan were incredulous when they heard and saw how attached my brother was to his basketball. If it didn't involve a small green ball, a bat, and wasn't called cricket, it was difficult to accept it as a sport for any respectable Pakistani boy to be obsessed with.
And that was what it had become this time. Earlier, when my brother would claim that he was going to be an NBA player, my parents would laugh and exchange glances with us - they were the "isn't this phase perfectly adorable?" glances. But as time passed by, and my brother remained unwavering in his commitment, my parents decided it was time to take his passion seriously. They enrolled him in basketball classes so he could start training for real and the two days a week he spends at those classes are probably still the highlight of his life.
Basketball doesn't end for him when he leaves his coaches and games though; his entire life is basketball. He'll dribble his ball in between bites of dinner, while watching T.V. — he's accidentally even carried it inside the bathroom with him a few times!
I'm always complaining about it to his face because, let me tell you, spending three to four hours hearing a basketball or any ball being dribbled across the floor will send even the sanest person into the straits of insanity and I'm not a friend of courting headaches. But, truthfully, I'm proud of my brother every time I hear him tell someone he plays basketball. I love how, even at age 10, he stays firm when the aunts and ladies around him continue to exchange those disbelieving glances, and when the more fortright ones tell him "You can play basketball for fun, but you have to be something else like a doctor or engineer." Who said brown kids couldn't play basketball, that it's reserved for the tallest people in the nation?
My brother can name the major players on every NBA team. He can recite the stats of countless players by heart and follows live games and recorded scores with equal passion. He keeps track of which teams are leading in each division and (to a chorus of our rolling eyes) will spend about five minutes every dinner telling us what is new in the basketball world. A couple of years ago, he managed to carry on an intricate basketball conversation with our cousin who was in town to visit his medical school and actually had the upper hand, because he cares so much.
Whether it's a passion, hobby or even borderline obsession, it's only ever kept him focused and driven and had taught him more than any lessons we might give him could. I hope other Pakistani kids can look at him and realize that the world of sports doesn't start and end with cricket, that because we care about academics doesn't mean we're all doomed to be failures as athletes. More than anything, I hope he can make it in the end, make it to an NBA team and realize his dream. One day, maybe I'll be watching him in a live game and as I cheer, I'll remember the sort of passion my little brother shows for basketball.