Two friends of Jarmaine's walk down the sidewalk toward him, their hightops slung over their shoulders. Jarmaine gives them each a chest bump. They know his game, the way he used to streak down the court and rain jumpers from everywhere. He watches the friends disappear around the corner for a pickup game and shakes his head. Without basketball, he's lost.
"I miss breathing hard," he says later, sitting on a bench outside the Col. Charles Young Playground on West 145th Street. Teenagers throw trick passes on the court, but Jarmaine keeps his back to them. It's easier not to watch. "You can lose every game, but just knowing you're out there playing,..." he says. "Basketball kept me on the right path."
No one came closer to dying that night on the turnpike than Danny Reyes. Physical therapy has helped him, and he has a job as an editorial assistant at Essence magazine, but his sister, Ana Thoericht, says he'll never be the same. "He knows he can't play professional basketball," she says, "and that hurts him deep inside."
Danny's right arm was shattered by bullets, but it was saved from amputation by metal plates and a skin graft from his right thigh, which has left the arm grotesquely discolored and scarred. It took Danny months to regain enough strength to hold a paper cup. As if the physical pain weren't enough, his insurance company added insult by refusing to pay his medical bills on grounds that he had been injured "while committing a felony, or seeking to avoid lawful apprehension or arrest." The payments finally began after Danny's lawyers threatened to sue the company.
On a court in Central Park the game is rough; passes clang off the fences, and there are more air balls than swishes. Teammates yell at each other for dribbling too much and giving up offensive rebounds. A shot goes up from the foul line, and the shortest player on the court rises above all the bodies to try to stuff the rebound. Rayshawn Brown, with his right wrist—the one that suffered severe nerve damage from a gunshot—bandaged to prevent it from bending too far, leaps high, extends his left hand and slams the ball against the back rim, missing the dunk but drawing oohs from the spectators.
He's had to learn how to shoot and write with his left hand while rehabilitating his right. He can't spread the fingers on his right hand wide or bend the wrist to follow through on his jump shots. Twice a week he goes for physical therapy.
For months after the shooting Rayshawn would venture outside only with his mother. Seeing a cop stung. "He's not as carefree as he used to be," his mother says. "He's not as trusting of anybody." But he is playing again, on scholarship at Bloomfield ( N.J.) College, a Division II school about 30 minutes west of Manhattan. For Rayshawn, the dream is still alive.
"My goal is the CBA or USBL," he says, sitting on a bench near his dormitory on another steamy afternoon. He's studying Internet technologies. "You can't let obstacles stand in your way," he says, "or you'll never fulfill your dream."
Keshon Moore could play basketball if he wanted to. He wasn't wounded in the shooting, but his passion for the game is gone. He lives in West New York, N.J., with his fianc�e, Mimi Pimentel, who gave birth to a girl named Mykaela last month. Until recently Keshon worked in a liquor store in Irvington, N.J. He's helping Mimi at home now and looking for a new job, struggling to find direction. He talks about coaching but has no plans for it. He talks about getting his degree but hasn't enrolled anywhere. "It's important to me," he says about finishing his education. "I almost died trying to get it."
"He's so terribly guilt-ridden that he wasn't shot," says Keshon's attorney, Linda Kenney. "He feels that since the police officers were trying to kill him, he should have taken all the bullets for everybody."