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For the love of the game, and Jimmy Dooley

October 8th, 2019 2:15 PM

OPSBL logo of Jimmy Dooley shooting at past tournament (designed by Louis Kertgen).

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By James Kay

Sports Editor

High school is usually a time for students to unearth their insecurities, find their passions and maybe start building a stable bridge towards adulthood. I can speak for my high school friend group when I say we did not do any of that.

Instead, we let our youth escape us by putting all of our energy into the Oak Park Street Basketball league.

Comprised of 12 skinny, semi-athletic dudes who are afraid of attacking the rim, my middle school friend group thought it would be fun if we did our own version of March Madness. We dedicated one summer night in 2009 to five hours' worth of heaving contested fadeaways and mashing on a stadium-sized Dinicos pizza (Houdini himself couldn't pull off the vanishing act that we did to that pizza in '09).

Slowly, the light-hearted tournament went from being a one-time event to us needing an odd amount of players at pickup games so someone could keep track of our stats. A Facebook page was formed, T-shirts with the league's logo found our rail-thin bodies, and two documentaries were produced exclusively for the eyes of our loved ones.

During year seven of the OPSBL, the league expanded from a meager 12 people to a whopping 15 participants wanting to take home our three-foot trophy. One of those newcomers came in a 6-foot-5, 225-pound package and looked like he was going to be the league's next star. Jimmy Dooley, man. Jimmy Freakin Dooley.

The second I saw him post up on our scrawny big "men," I knew I had to find a way to draft Jimmy for that year's tournament with my prime years behind me.

He ended up falling in the draft (oh yeah … we hold a draft lottery every year along with live pick-by-pick announcements on our Facebook page), and we were paired up that year.

With his size and my three-point making ability, we lost every game we played in that tournament. More importantly, this was the first time I got to experience Jimmy's larger-than-life personality up front.

Before the tournament, he made his rounds sharing jokes with every person on the floor while blocking our warm-up jumpers. As everyone in the league would get to know, it was just Jimmy being Jimmy.

Having become one of the staples of the OPSBL, Jimmy offered to host us at St. Luke School gym, where his mom was the athletic director. The tournament transitioned from the alleyway on the 900 block of Lombard to the pristine hardwood at St. Luke's. Because of Jimmy's graciousness, we had an even bigger space to miss wide open jump shots.

However, the league and the Oak Park and River Forest community would never be the same after Aug. 4, 2018. Our beloved Jimmy had dealt with migraines for weeks before he passed away at the age of 22 due an acute onset of hydrocephalus. It has been a year, and we still find ourselves missing him every day.

If you knew Jimmy, he wouldn't want his loved ones to suffer as we tried to wrap our heads around how this could happen to someone so happy and full of life. That is why OPBSL has decided to dedicate our 10-year anniversary to Jimmy and his family.

We are selling T-shirts to raise money for the Dooleys as they courageously move forward without one of the gems of the OPRF community. You can find the link to the shirts at this link. They are $30 each and you can purchase either a short-sleeve or long-sleeve. On the back is our logo with the outline of Jimmy taking a jump shot (this is inspired by the NBA's logo of Jerry West's dribbling). The shirts are available until Oct. 23.  

The league's slogan is "mediocre at best," but we feel this cause is far from that. The league just wants to do good by our fallen friend's family, and if you could find the kindness in your Jimmy Dooley-sized heart, we would be more than thankful.