The Roses: Jamar Board b.k.a Silent Assassin

I wish we all could’ve given Jamar the flowers while he could still smell them. But, it could be that he did. I met and knew Jamar from playing basketball, on Sundays, at Maret High School in Northwest, DC—about 13 or 14 years ago. One of the first things about his game that stood out was how hard he dribbled the basketball. It was like he was pounding it. And, it was unique. If I recall correctly, he said to Daniel Lamont, who is a basketball mentor to many, that he did that to scare or intimidate defenders. Jamar’s savvy ability to handle the basketball was in fact frightening to defenders as time passed. He was extremely difficult to guard because of that, and guarding him only got harder as his game matured. Although some would say that he lacked great physical gifts such as being objectively fast, tall, or a high leaper, his uncanny knack for shooting and lightening fast hand-speed made him the dangerous player that is finally being recognized, and more so in death. As his legend will continue to grow, he will have the respect he always wanted. And the flawless game he was working so hard for.Jamar Board

How is it that someone becomes a Streetball legend? (I think it is more than fair to say that Jamar Board is a Streetball legend, which puts him in the same category of greatness as Pee Wee Kirkland, Kurt Smith, Earl Manigault (The G.O.A.T), Joe “The Destroyer,” Baby Shack, Greg “the Wizard” Jones, Skip to My lou, and so many more.) Those who saw him play can recount his memorable highlights. But how is it that you can drop 75 points in a game (video proof)–anywhere on god’s green earth–and not have had the opportunity to do it on a more globally respected platform? His cousin, friend, and fellow basketball athlete, Bobby Maze said his chance was right around the corner.

Obviously, it could be politics, timing or luck, academics, ability to work with others, staying out of trouble, or simply the ridiculous amount of others trying to “make it” as a basketball player. It’s hard (an understatement) to stand out. Mind you, he was putting up legit numbers everywhere he played. Jamar lead a semi-pro league in scoring. His ability is documented and well verified. Another argument is that one needs to be on the usual platform where NBA talent is scouted, such as the best NCAA colleges.

I’m not going to hype Jamar by telling you he jumped over the moon before finally coming down to dunk or literally shook a defender so hard his shoe soles stayed on the court, while he drove by and finger rolled. No. But, I am telling you that he got buckets by consistently making shots. He made points in a various manner, from getting in the lane, to knocking down jumpers from anywhere. And, if he chose to, he could make sure that his teammates got easy buckets too.

Please know that Jamar was a phenomenal basketball talent. He just never got his break, like so many others. But, Jamar is distinct from the rest because of his undeniable skill set. One of his several college coaches mentioned in an article that he once witnessed Jamar make 99 of 100 three-pointers in a shooting session. And, I’m sure the one he missed was crazier than the 99 he made. To put that into perspective, most people who shoot 40% in a game are considered good shooters, and when practicing, making 80% of the shots you take without defense is considered outstanding. (You can google his stats from his various colleges.)

Those who watched Silent Assassin saw a legend in the making. It wasn’t in a one high flying act, but rather continued excellence. Another story is that Jamar made about 238 of 250 three-pointers. A rough estimate. That kind of focus, conditioning, and consistency is unreal. Not to mention being in the gym long enough to take that many shots. And you can be sure those weren’t his only shots of the day. He was a basketball savant. That was his “trick.” He had a determination and work ethic that was unmatched while being tailored for his game, which is only proven in his body of work. One can only assume his incredible confidence on the court came from knowing he was more prepared than his competition. Jamar relished every opportunity to prove it.

But it was the hours, sweat, tears, and sacrifice to attain his peak performance level that goes without enough appreciation. When everyone else was sleeping…he was working. But what does that even mean? It literally means, he would work on his ball handling into the wee hours of the morning, when his peers were likely eating dinner, doing homework, watching television, and—of course—sleeping. He was working on his game at odd hours on the playground or in a 24-hour gym at times when most others would be preparing for the next day with sleep. (Please note: this kind of hard work requires a sacrifice to other facets of life [addressed in the following].)

Jamar didn’t need a coach to motivate him or even a gym to workout. He would dribble for hours in his basement, after rearranging the furniture and other items in order to do so. He would also dribble with a less than inflated ball interspersed with dribbling a normal ball or dribbling them simultaneously. He too had created one of those odds methods to attain handles. Jason Williams dribbled with gloves and hand-weights, or like Kyrie Irving who dribbled the ball while it was inside of a plastic bag. Or Jamar would dribble while doing dumbbell curls with the opposite hand. I’m giving away his trade secrets, here. I hope you basketball players use them.

jamar boardMore to his sacrificing is when people were taking breaks to lay down in bed, Jamar was doing ab work or whatever else, as I’m told by one of his good friends. This was a work ethic gained over time. His dedication required sacrificing time to other facets of life, in hopes that once basketball took him far enough, those things would be replenished in the future. But, he was clearly locked-in on the present. Who knew if he could even see beyond or why he was going so hard after a certain point. Who is willing to do that and to what extent? We all sacrifice, but damn! Isn’t what Jamar was doing required to be special? If that is the case, I know a lot of people would rather be normal. Board was on another level, which resulted in his game being on another level than most.

Jamar–without question–was one of the best shooters I’ve seen, which advanced not only his game, but the concept of basketball. It changes everything as a defender who has to guard a person as they cross half court. This made Jamar quicker and faster than most perceived him to be. The hard thing when being so tremendously skilled is that you have to pass to teammates. That’s a problem only he, Jordan, Kevin Durant, and Kobe really know—others merely think it. Why pass the ball? And, in this dog eat dog basketball world, why pass to a player on your team to take yourself out of the spotlight, or to share the shine, we as players work so hard to get–as we can only dream?

The only reason Jamar did not revolutionize basketball is because he didn’t have a large enough stage. Jamar’s ability to shoot from many feet behind any three-point arch changes the concept of how to play basketball offensively and defensively. So people who feared being embarrassed took the low road and just wouldn’t make a defensive effort. Get fried either way!

Jamar Board’s death is saddening not only because he is/was someone’s son, father, friend, significant other, brother, etc. but also because he is yet another young African-American male whose talent—and such a great talent—was taken from this earth far too soon. I am only referring to basketball as it pertains to Jamar, although this is symbolic of a bigger issue.

This opens that proverbial door to the bewilderment that comes from knowing so many future great people of the black community have forever been lost due to firearms. There’s no telling how Jamar could affect basketball in the coming years. And with that, what he could do with that influence.

Please cherish your gifts, and understand that without an obvious or glaring indication of greatness, there can be greatness. In other words, the person with an atypical body type, learning ability, or skill set can be the next phase in evolution of a particular field. The evolution occurs out of necessity to survive, which can potentially reach unseen heights of greatness within that particular venue. Jamar was only on the precipice of doing that in my opinion. I have much respect for your game, Jamar Board. Peace