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Thank You, Curly Neal by Mark R. Elsis

It was February of 1970, and I had just turned twelve years old a month earlier. I lived and breathed basketball since before my first intramural game, which didn’t happen when scheduled on November 9, 1965, because that was the evening of the Great Northeast Blackout.

Since it was the dead of winter, I was playing basketball indoors at the Lost Battalion Hall in Rego Park, Queens. I was by myself, late in the afternoon, working on just playing left-handed. I used to play predominantly right-handed, yet I was considerably ambidextrous both playing hockey left-handed and was a switch hitter when batting at baseball.

I understood through the insistence of my helpful coach at the time Mr. Kidell, that if I could become almost as good left-handed with dribbling and shooting, then the defense couldn’t overplay me on my right side. I had been working hard on left-handed playing for some time, and it started becoming more natural.

I was diligently and repetitively practicing left-handed when I heard a voice from behind tell me, hey kid, you’re great. I looked behind me, and to my utter astonishment, it was the greatest ball handler in the world, the superstar of the Harlem Globetrotters, Curly Neal. I said thank you. He then told me, I’ve been watching you, and you’re right-handed, yet you’re playing entirely with your left hand.

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