For middle and high school basketball players, the recent NBA playoff series between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers yielded positive proof that basketball remains a team game.
Kobe Bryant and his 35.4-point scoring average -- best in the NBA in the past two decades -- wasn't enough to derail the more team-oriented Suns, led by NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash.
Bryant's staggering 81-point performance in the regular season was impressive, but it was the league leading 10.5 assists per game doled out by a mop-headed Canadian that lifted the Suns past the Lakers, 4-3.
Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo might have best summed up Nash's importance to the game when he said, "He's one of the few players who (has) ever played who makes everyone better around him."
Too many of today's young athletes approach the game as if it's a one-on-one personal challenge. But that's understandable. They see that type of selfish play in many NBA games and in pickup games on outdoor courts.
While teens continue to practice only their individual skills of dribbling and one-on-one drives to the basket, they forget their playmaking, passing, cutting, moving without the basketball and screening skills are equally as important.
Nash's uncanny passing in the Lakers vs. Suns series reminded young players that an assist to a wide open teammate is worth the same amount of points as a crowd-pleasing slam dunk.
Also falling by the wayside in the recent focus on one-on-one play and dunks has been free throw shooting.
Consider the adventure Shaq endures every time he steps to the free throw line.
Nash, an unlikely NBA star, having grown up in a country where hockey is king, led the league in free throw shooting (.921).
Free throw practice is not very exciting or glamorous, but aspiring players should remember how often a free throw has made the difference between a "W" and an "L."
Strong fundamentals and unselfish play continue to be the keys to becoming a successful and contributing team member.
PAHH run on Saturday
The Sixth Annual PAHH 5K run/walk begins at 8 a.m. May 13.
About one hour later, the inaugural children's run will be held.
The race distance for children up to 6 years of age is a quarter mile. For 7- and 8-year-olds, it's a half-mile, and for 9- and 10-year-olds, the distance is one mile.
The entry fee for the fun run is $10.
For the 5K, the entry is $20. The entry fee includes a T-shirt and post race pancake breakfast.
On race day, a pre-registration and T-shirt pick-up will be held from 6:30 to 7:45 a.m. at the large ramada in Rumsey Park.
The T-shirts will feature a drawing done by Julia Randall Elementary School fourth-grader Eber Valenzuela who won a contest sponsored by PAHH.
JRE teacher Wayne Gorry will serve as race director of the fun run. Several of his students are expected to enter.
In the adult run, cash awards will be given to the top three male and female finishers. First place finishers receive $100, runners-up will be awarded $50 and third place is worth $25.
Participants will compete in one of 10 age/sex divisions.
The course has changed slightly from last year when it was held near Rumsey Park rather than at Green Valley, as in previous years.
The starting line will be in the parking lot of the Payson Public Library.
Tee off for football
The Payson Youth Football Benefit Tournament tees off with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. May 13 at Payson Golf Course.
Earlier this year, Dale Gonzalez volunteered to serve as director of the annual golf tournament that helps support Payson teams entered in the Central Arizona Football Association. Gonzalez is also secretary of the local youth league.
Since assuming his youth football responsibilities, Gonzalez and co-tournament director Mike Conway have been busy planning the annual tournament.
The money is used mostly to purchase top-grade helmets and pads for the players, that help keep athletes safe and injury-free during practices and games. The tournament entry fee is $80 per person, or $400 per team. The registration fee includes green fees, a cart, food and raffle prizes at a post tournament awards ceremony. For more information, call Conway at (928) 970-0448.