My humbling and embarrassing experience with The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association

This weekend, Wichita Hoops is hosting the NIRSA National Basketball Championships. The NIRSA is the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. It’ll include a field of 50-plus teams representing many schools around the country, with the national intramural championship on the line.

This event brings back some memories as I have a bit of history with the association; an embarrassing one at that.

Over 20 years ago, the intramural director at Wichita State University asked me to be a part of this event. Back then, I was a young kid in my late teens playing intramural basketball at the university. Our team was undefeated and we thought we were on top of the world. When approached about representing the university in the regional tournament to see who could advance to the national tournament, we didn’t hesitate to say yes. We really thought we stood a chance.

I remember the days leading up to the tournament, we’d practice really hard…. not playing basketball but by using our fake I.D.’s at the Cedar and lifting schooners.

Then the day of the tournament arrived. That morning, I hopped into my car and did my pregame ritual of listening to Mobb Deep on my Sony Discman. They didn’t have iPhones or iPods back then. When I stepped inside the gym, it was like walking into the scene of Game of Thrones where they had the big giants. Only in this scenario, it wasn’t a two or three of them, but entire rosters of giants.

The field of teams included practice teams from Oklahoma State, K-State, Colorado, etc. When I say practice teams, I mean the guys who would practice against the actual D1 players. My team was just a bunch of hacks who happened to be better than other hacks.

How did the first game go? We lost roughly 110-30. The next game was better as we only gave up 90+ points. We were getting waxed left and right. Our tallest player was barely over 6 feet tall. Even when we were down 50 points, teams were still full court pressing us. I never felt so helpless in my life.

At one point, we were sitting on the bleachers waiting for our next game. We could hear other people saying things like, “Did you see some team get shit on by 80 points?”, “How did they let those scrubs play?”, and “Do you think we can score 200 on them?”. It was like the Dream Team with Michael, Magic, and Bird playing against the smallest country in the world.

The regional intramural tournament was the most humbling experience of my life and the day I formally quit on my NBA dreams. The entire weekend, we didn’t win a single game and failed to score over 40 points.

The rest of my basketball career was spent in YMCA leagues and recreational pickup games at churches and schools. One year, we did blow through a YMCA league and beat many teams by 30-50 points. Every time that happens, it brings me back to that regional intramural basketball tournament.


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