"A K" Calls "Game"

Posted by John Branston on Sat, Oct 3, 2009 at 11:28 AM

If you call "game" in playground basketball you better have it.

Especially if a you're the only white guy on the court. And a newbie. And your last name is Stoneking.

"I've heard it all," says Isaac Stoneking.

He moved to Memphis last summer to work for Fidelity Investments, and he lives next door to me. We met for the first time on a day when it was about 100 degrees. He asked me where he could get a basketball game. I told him I drove past a couple of outdoor courts at Poplar and Manassas every day on my way to work. But I didn't think he'd go. I've hardly ever seen a white guy on the courts.

He got in his old silver Cadillac and drove down there that afternoon, ready to play. The regulars sized him up and eventually somebody picked him for their team. He's played there several times since. And while he has also gotten into regular indoor games closer to his office in East Memphis, he keeps going back to the outdoor courts at Morris Park, where his nickname is "A K," as in AK-47, the handle bestowed on playground gunners, black or white, far and wide.

Isaac grew up in Arkansas and played high school and AAU basketball but didn't get any college offers. After a while, he went into the Navy, where his shots started going in and his overall game got better.

"I played on the best teams with the best players I ever played with. There's a lot of wasted talent in the Navy."

The games were structured because the Navy can throw you out if you blow up too much and don't follow rules. Playground basketball in Memphis has looser rules, but rules just the same. Be careful where you park your car. And don't leave your stuff lying around. Take a little trash talk but not too much. Calling "game" gets you the right to play the winner but you better be good, or you'll never get picked by anyone else, which is the other way to get into a game.

He's seen some interesting things. A crazy woman with a broken wine bottle who threatened everyone until a teenage girl nearby pulled a knife and backed her down. A guy who lost a game, got mad, picked up a beer bottle and threw it against the goal, where it shattered and sprayed bits of glass a few feet away from him. But no guns and no bad fights.

When Isaac came to visit Memphis, a cop at Overton Park told him the city is a loser and to move somewhere else if he could. He took the job and came anyway. He got an apartment in Midtown. He asked his neighbor where he could play basketball and ignored his warning. Sometimes the hardest test in a sport comes before the game begins.

Comments (12)

Showing 1-12 of 12

Rumor is that Gus Macker may be bringing a 3-on-3 here...the "AK 3-on-3" has a nice ring to it!

Posted by Mooseisloose on 10/09/2009 at 1:54 PM

Baller; Shot Caller 20 " Blades on the Impala

Posted by TigaPlaya on 10/09/2009 at 1:40 PM

This guy can play. I've seen him at several courts. I personally watched him take it to Preston Laird in G'town. What a shame, this guy could suit for the Tigers if he still had eligibility...

Posted by Mooseisloose on 10/09/2009 at 1:36 PM

Hey AK...that is too cool. It was great meeting you in Westlake.

Posted by Jimbo on 10/07/2009 at 4:28 PM

"AK-47" You are the man! Already making an impression in Memphis. I'm not surprised. Major props my man. Your making us Arkansas boys proud.

Posted by Joe S on 10/05/2009 at 1:35 PM

AK-47 huh! Good to see you are doing well my brother and expecting to see you down in J-ville soon. Nice article, and continue to call "game".

Posted by Bell on 10/05/2009 at 7:35 AM

Good job on the article! Isaac is a great friend and I'm glad he's found a place to play ball! Of course my shot is better than his (LOL)! Keep in touch man! You know I'll tell everybody in Jacksonville you're a 'Star' now! You went from "Billy Hoyle" to "AK-47"! Good luck friend!


Posted by LLC on 10/05/2009 at 7:09 AM

This "pick-up" has always been of love of Isaac's. Most mother's would not like their son using that word.

Posted by Roe on 10/05/2009 at 6:48 AM

This "pick-up" of Isaac's has been a long time love of his! His relatives also told him to live in Germantown and he did not do that either. That's my son and I love him!

Posted by Roe on 10/05/2009 at 6:45 AM

AK gets it. And that's so cool.

Posted by Pam Denney on 10/03/2009 at 9:03 PM

We're only as bad as we think we are. Think about it.

Posted by Midtown Mark on 10/03/2009 at 6:45 PM

Nice column.

Posted by BruceVanWyngarden on 10/03/2009 at 11:56 AM
Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment