DA's Morning Tip

Guest Tip: Taking on 'The Black Mamba of Mumbai'

Omkar Parnandiwar, of Guragon, India shares a tale about how a Jason Williams highlight inspired a highlight of his own

David Aldridge

It’s one of my favorite things about taking vacation, even though it has nothing to do with my actually leaving for a beach or other destination. For the past several years, I’ve solicited fans to submit columns that would be selected for a Guest Morning Tip while I was away. The criteria was, is, always simple: why do you love basketball? Those of us who cover the game love it for a lot of reasons, but the love is genuine.

But fans do, too. I seek out people who don’t just have favorite teams or players, though; I want people for whom the game has special meaning, something that becomes important to their lives. Maybe the game taught them teamwork, or sacrifice, or love. Or some combination of those things, or others. But it’s not just something you watch on TV. It’s a part of you.

I think I found someone like that in this year’s Guest Tip winner: Omkar Parnandiwar, of Guragon, India.

Omkar is 30 years old. He was born in Panjim, the capital of the Indian state of Goa. He was raised in Mumbai. “I am a marketing professional by day, aspiring guitarist in the evenings and a crazy Lakers fan in the early morning when the games are telecast in India,” he wrote. “I sincerely believe the Lakers are going to win every year and that (Brandon) Ingram is going to be an All-Star this year despite the fact that he will be coming of the bench to begin with.”

I just loved Omkar’s tale of a special game he played many years ago, that changed the way he felt about himself. Basketball can do that to people. Thanks so much to everyone who submitted entries. I read every one, and truly enjoyed them all.

Omkar, the floor is yours.


Someone once said, “How can you not be romantic about sports?” It’s May 2001 and in suburban Mumbai, India, I open a packet with trembling hands. Inside is an authentic NBA basketball. It is the most exciting day of my life. Today, I am going to do what I was destined to.

My name is Omkar and I grew up in Mumbai and was lucky enough to have a full sized basketball court in the apartment complex I grew up in. Basketball on our court was competitive, intense, crazy and like all things in India – crowded. Five teams of seven kids each would turn up to play every day! And we would play a knock out format with each game lasting 30 minutes. Three games and a 10-minute break to catch your breath and do some warm ups — two hours of bliss every day. Games started at 7 p.m. and ended at 9 p.m. when our moms came screaming to take us home and make us eat.

There were no referees and fouls were called by the players with the ball (honesty was NOT a priority!) being taken out (no free throws!). A lot of people who played competitively in the Mumbai District leagues, college teams and the Maharashtra state team played on the court with us. Everyone had NBA player-like nicknames – “The Tornado”, “Flying Surd”, “The Big Diesel”, “Nash”, “AI”, etc. and every day was a singular struggle to take each other out on the court.

This is the story of how I took out the “Black Mamba of Mumbai”.

I was a young, chubby kid standing at 5-foot-5 inches tall who wanted to play like Magic Johnson but was forced to
play like Shaquille O’Neal and actually played like Kevin Garnett (well, not actually, but you know what I mean — tough defender, long arms, shooting 18-20 footers, helping on team defense, trash talking). Basketball started for me when I was 12 and moved to this apartment complex and has become a lifelong obsession for me. I still remember the day I learnt how to do a figure-8 crossover without carrying the ball. I did the move over and over again till I could not move anymore. The rim was nine feet high (Still have no clue, why the rim was a foot shorter than regulation) and if you could dunk on the rim, you got universal respect and your own nickname. All the guys I mentioned above, they all had dunked on the rim.

“The Black Mamba of Mumbai” was the one who had actually posterized a guy. In a game. I was that guy.

It was a close game, we were down I think 42-35 and the Black Mamba was on top of the key guarded by a decent enough defender. A shake and bake later, all that stood between him and the rim was me. Getting embarrassed was the last thing on my mind as there was no way he was dunking on me. He rose up, I rose up. I started coming down, he was still rising up. All I remember after that is 30 kids going “oooooooooooohhhhhhhhh” and the Mamba standing over me. To paraphrase J.K. Rowling, I was the “boy who got dunked on”.

And that scared me to defend the Mamba. All I could feel while going up in front of him was the “oooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh” in my head. And he knew it. All his isolation plays were against me from then on. This went on for a couple of years till I reached the 10th grade. And that is when a friend of mine got a NBA mix tape.

Getting to see the NBA live was a privilege as broadcasts for live games was few and all we could get to see was a 30-minute version of Inside The NBA cut with all the day’s highlights. Our weekly hunger for the NBA was fulfilled by mix tapes that were sold by shady video pirates for 20 Indian Rupees a pop (I used to get ZERO pocket money) and bought by luckier kids who shared the wealth. One such mix tape was brought by my friend and he gave it to me as usual.

I flipped it on and I remember it was a plays of the week tape. Play No. 6 was by Jason Williams of the Sacramento Kings. That play changed my life. He stared of on the right side of the court, dribbled past one dude, went behind the back to get past another one and finished on the other side of the rim with his right hand. I saw this play at least 500 times. That night when I slept, all I could see was me doing this move on the Black Mamba. Over and over and over and over again. So I got up at 5 am. And I practiced.

Every day I would hit the court at 5 a.m. and practice this move. Every single day! I started off with simple behind-the-back layups. And I just couldn’t get the ball around my back ready to finger roll it in. You realize how hard it is to get to an NBA level when even simple moves such as these take so much time to perfect. It is incomprehensible, the amount of work, talent, sweat and dedication it would take for someone to make it to the NBA. Slowly yet surely I mastered the behind-the-back finger roll. Then I moved on to the reverse side finish. But try as I might, I just could not do it. It was impossible for me to generate enough spin off the backboard with the ball I practiced.

Which brings me back to May 2001. My dad has got me a new Spaulding ball and the box claimed it was an authentic NBA basketball. I had a hand pump and filled up the ball instantly. It was like a meeting of souls. The moment I caught the ball, it fit so snugly in a single palm of mine; it was so perfect that I knew that the end was near. Next day morning at 5 a.m., I went down to the court, loosened up and let one fly. As they say about the purest shots, “Nothing but net!” Heart beating, palms sweaty, I decided to give my move a try.

Crossover dribble between the legs (within the box like Isiah Thomas), behind the back and a perfect spin off the backboard for a reverse side finish. I could hear Kenny Smith screaming “It’s over!” in my head.

Never have I waited more for school to finish than that day. I drink a glass of milk in a flash, take my ball and head out to the court. Teams are split and I will face off against the Mamba in the second game. I am desperate for the first game to end so that I can finally try my move. It’s 7:30 now and the first game ends. I helpfully suggest we play the second game with my new NBA ball and everyone is super happy to comply. And the game begins.

Whenever I used to watch a buzzer beater, I would always wonder how exactly the whole sequence would feel. How is the build up? How does the feeling of elation feel? I was about to find out. The score is 38-30, we are trailing, not that I care. All I can feel is when do I get an iso with the Mamba in the lane? Four points later, the ball bounces of my PG’s foot and I pick it up only to see that the defender has switched. I wave off the others and call for an iso. Unlike my posterization, this sequence I remember in 2K HD. I am on the left of the court with the Mamba in the lane guarding the big guy.

I shake my defender with a crossover dribble; he moves left, I go right with a clear lane to the Mamba. The Mamba switches and tries to take a charge. I go around him behind the back and scoop up the ball of the back board through the net. The Mamba is stunned, his venom now vanilla. I have finally vanquished my demon. Two years of waiting culminating in a glorious finish.

I am 30 years old now, 15 years removed from that amazing day. There is no more regular basketball play for me now. However, I still get in a game from time to time over a weekend. The form of my jump shot is gone, I can barely survive 2-3 defensive possessions before I need a breather and I definitely can’t run as fast or long anymore. The one thing I can still do is that behind the back reverse layup. And every time I do it, every single person on the court does the same thing that they did in May 2001.

Nothing but “oooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh.”


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Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT.

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