A slam-dunk analogy

September 1, 2007

My labmate Joe was trying to get his head around the concept of the USA’s national 100K team and my status as a member of that team.

“So . . . you’re sort of like the guys on the US basketball team?” he asked half-kiddingly.

“Um, yes — I’m exactly like those guys,” I said. “Except that, well, I have a vertical leap of about three inches. And my shorts are a lot shorter than theirs. And I work in a lab as a hobby. And my primary ‘ride’ is a used bicycle. And . . .”

“OK, I get the idea,” he said. “But if you were part of the national hoops team, which player would you be? Who’s your twin?”

“Geez, well, uh . . . Even within the tiny community of ultramarathoners, I’m not really a superstar, so I wouldn’t be someone like Kobe Bryant or Lebron James. I don’t know — maybe some point guard who isn’t that flashy but gets the job done?”

“You mean like Chris Paul or Kirk Hinrich?” he asked helpfully.

“Um, sure,” I said, unsure of who they were. “But, you know, on second thought, I probably wouldn’t be a point guard. As elite ultramarathoners go, I’m actually kind of tall and heavy. Not like a center, but maybe a power forward. Or a really big guard.”

“How about Mike Miller?” he offered. He showed me some online information about Miller: 6’8″, 218 pounds, 27 years old. A pure shooter with good three-point range. Not a bad athlete to claim as a doppelganger.

“His age is about right,” I noted approvingly, “since I’m not especially young or old among 100K competitors. Mike and I both probably have a few peak years ahead of us before our talents start to wane. I guess I should call Mike up and tell him about the parallel lives we’re leading.”

Before I could get Mike on the line, though, I started to have second thoughts about my analogy. The US men’s basketball team is a dominant, intimidating force in international competition. The US men’s 100K team? Not so much. The US basketball team is like the 100K roster of Russia (1st at the 2006 IAU World Cup), France (2nd in 2005 and 2006), Japan (1st in 2005, 2nd in 2004), or Italy (1st in 2003 and 2004). The basketball equivalent of the US 100K team would be, say, Lithuania or Greece — a good, solid squad, but not much of a gold-medal threat.

So I guess I have no idea who my basketball twin is after all. Anyone know of any Lithuanian hoopsters?


  1. How about Darius Songaila or Linas Kleiza? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_Songaila and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linas_Kleiza

  2. Jem: Are you a devotee of Lithuanian basketball, or just good at searching the web? Either way, I'm glad to know what my options are.

  3. How about Arvidas Sabonis (sp?)? He used to play for the Blazers in the 90ies. OK, so the analogy is not right as he`s retired. And he is really tall, as in 7`1".

  4. I wish I could say I was sharing hard-won Lithuanian basketball expertise with you, but I wasn't. Bacon claimed that the scientific method "reduces all wits to a level", but it's actually the web that does that, at least when it comes to knowledge of trivia.Just let me know if you're wondering about you're athletic equivalent in team handball or cup stacking.

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