In the spring of 1998 I was just finishing up 9th grade at Eisenhower Junior High. I was a 6’1″ freshman who now was coming into his own as a basketball player, and after finishing the season as a full-time member on the varsity squad for the junior high, I was spending all of my free time hooping after school, hooping on the weekends, and trying to get a run wherever I could across various parts of my hometown. (Sidenote: Reflecting on this makes it quite scary in how much free time I actually had. From 3:30pm until about 7:00pm I would spend my day hooping, until I was tired and in need of sustenance. I couldn’t imagine giving up 3+ hours of my day to do hardly anything in 2013.)
Anyway, I can remember hopping on my bike (real goons mob across town on a Huffy 5-speed) in the summer of ’98 (I was 14 going on 15) and using my Sony CD Walkman to jam my favorite songs while I took my talents from the playground, to a driveway court, to the YMCA, to a community center, etc. That was my life that summer, riding around on my bike with a backpack on. In the backpack would be my said CD player with a favorite disc inside, favorite hooping shoes, (because I had to wear the Nike sandals first, then put my hoop shoes when I got to the location at hand) an extra t-shirt, (because I sweat a ton) five dollars, (BALLIN) and either some sunflower seeds or some pumpkin seeds. (I’m from Oklahoma, what else would you expect?)
That’s when I got introduced to Victory.
I wasn’t ready to buy Puff Daddy’s latest Bad Boy compilation album “No Way Out” in 1998, just didn’t trust it for some reason. Of course, one of my boys did and he let me listen to it. After skipping the intro (I was an impatient 14 year old) track #2 hit. My head began to explode.
That Rocky beat. That Biggie verse. The Busta Rhymes hook. The Diddy … ummm, THAT BIGGIE VERSE!
It was something that I really hadn’t experienced yet. The build-up on that song was crazy. It felt dark and yet it was a boastful anthem. I felt like I could dunk. I felt like I could check anybody, make every long jumper and play for hours and hours on end.
I can remember going to the mall later that summer and buying the CD single (!!!) for like $2.99 or something like that. (Goodness gracious this sounds outrageous now 15 years later … $3 for a single?) I played it all summer and going into the fall as well. While others were now bumping things like Jay-Z, Nas, Bone Thugs, DMX and the like, I was still hanging on to Victory as my pre-game anthem. I remember listening to that song before tryouts began for the high school team and listening to it religiously, just hoping that the vibe I got from that song would translate onto the court, and that the coaches would believe in me.
I made the team. It was the junior varsity team, but I didn’t care, I made the team and would get my photo (the one I rock proudly on my Twitter handle) in the yearbook. Swag. I would listen to that song before every game in the locker room while I was in high school, be it for a basketball game or a baseball game. I tried other songs, thinking that something else would give me more mojo, but I’d always come back to the old reliable. I needed that song when I was putting on my Nikes, be it my hoop shoes or my baseball cleats.
It’s funny how songs can connect to your memories growing up as a kid. Maybe I would’ve made the team without Victory, but I’ll never believe it. I needed that song to be great, even if great was just getting 5-10 minutes of playing time in the basketball game or taking two-hoppers playing the infield. It doesn’t matter if it made sense to anyone else, it made sense to me. That’s all that mattered.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play this song on repeat 38 times while trying to dunk on people with my created player on NBA 2K13.