J Lin’s Ruptured Patella Tendon

Watching Jeremy Lin’s recent ruptured patella tendon injury brought back memories of when I tore my right ACL.

Up until my injury, I always thought torn ACLs happen through someone running into you at full speed or getting hit in the legs directly. Little did I know a majority of ACL ruptures are non-contact which makes it even more frustrating. You can be strong, flexible, and self-aware but if you just happen to land at the wrong angle, everything can go haywire.

The Slow Realization

The most devastating part of this video is the confusion J Lin has as he’s feeling his knee. A few seconds when you don’t realize what’s wrong, but just know something is definitely not right.

Granted I didn’t fall to the floor bawling my eyes out but I remember feeling that this is something I’ve never experienced before. It was beyond just sucking it up and playing through the rest of the game. It may require surgery.

Now more than 2 years out from surgery, I’m back to playing full speed and not limited to a certain amount of minutes, but I am still mentally aware of not driving into the lane or trying to battle down low since I know that’s where your body can start to contort and twist in ways you have no control over.


Identity Politics & Moderates

I don’t usually write or talk about politics much, but recently came across a few tidbits that have caused me to change the way I view race, identity, and politics.

In one of Sam Harris’ recent podcasts, he discussed the controversy over this Tweet of his:

He talked about how the context of this Tweet is important to recognize. It does seem our current political parties are siding with certain identities be it ethnic, sexual orientation, or simply science vs. non-science. By saying that “white identity politics” is detestable, does that include the white people that were not at Charlottesville? Perhaps he is referring to a certain subsection of whites.

Then this quote was brought up on Bill Maher’s show during his interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice[…] – Martin Luther King

Let’s say we broaden the white moderate to all moderates (generalizing here but I would say this includes people who live in NYC, SF, LA). This made me wonder if all this social-media bashing over the alt-right and neo-nazis by us moderates is just another version of us being “orderly?” When confronted with an issue we disagree with, are we too scared to take action? My hunch is that the characters of the “moderate” has not changed much since MLK’s times.

Thoughts on Westworld

I watched through the entire Westworld series twice. Once a few months ago, and then again on an international flight. The fact that I am writing a blog post about this series shows the impact this show had on me and my thinking about life and the human condition.

Lowest Common Denominator

The one line that summed up the series for me was when Billy tells Dolores that the park doesn’t bring out the worst in people (murder, sex, anything done in excess). Rather, it the park shows you who you really are. For Billy, it meant feeling alive since his real life in the regular world lacked meaning and purpose. This made me wonder: if humans do indeed get the freedom to experience any pleasure or vice without the consequences, would they resort to mass murder and infidelity or  would something greater come from this freedom?

Perhaps when there are no restrictions, more great works of art are produced, greater communities are forged, or new technologies are borne faster than they would otherwise. On a personal level, you might find your true calling in life and pursue your dreams since money will probably lose its significance.

My hunch is that left to our own devices, we would not commit murder and live hedonistic lives contrary to what the park is meant to encourage. The reason I believe this is because we have thousands of years of human history to prove it. Neanderthals and the original sapiens had the freedom to kill and mate but after awhile rules and social norms developed to prevent this behavior. Assuming that you are not in the park alone and there will be other “humans” around, there would be new social norms established between humans and the robots that would prevent such extreme behavior from occurring.

Finding Purpose

When Billy said this line, the first thing I thought about is the current world we live in with all the rules, red tape, and social norms preventing you from living a life of purpose.

The reason I think we cannot live a life of purpose is because we care about what people think and feel.

In the park, you have this general freedom to explore and do whatever you want because you know the robots don’t feel and no one is judging you. Nevertheless, there is the theme that the board and shareholders care about the data collected from the park which most likely includes the data about the guests and their actions. This theme is not too dissimilar from how most corporations act today, so given this fact guests would probably be hesitant to truly live out their deepest desires in the park.

But lets ignore this concept for now and think about why you would wouldn’t feel hindered from doing whatever you want in the park. The robots won’t judge you, and for the most part will not remember any wrongdoings you made in the past. In the real world, our reputations matter, and this social construct prevents us from living a life we want to live because we care about what people think, and in most cases need people to think and judge us to get into the right schools, clubs, and social circles.

The question is, can you live a life of purpose where you do not require other people? For most “career paths,” I think the answer is no.

To bring this back to our world, I would argue this analogy: Westworld’s park is like our regular lives, and Westworld’s “real world” is like our corporate lives. I think most people who work in the white-collar knowledge industry are working for brands and corporations where our identity is professional and polished. Your sexual desires and personal wishes are generally not brought into the workplace and you are–for the most part–sucking on the teat of a corporation to make a living. Cross over to your regular life, and you put down your guard a bit and you become your true self with your friends and family. Sometimes there is crossover between the two, but how awkward is it when you see a co-worker for the first time outside of the workplace? I think this is similar to how the robots in Westworld feel when they learn about the real world outside of the park.

I’ve been thinking more about purpose and meaning lately, as I think about my own career path and those around me. I wonder why people don’t follow their true calling in life or why they hide their passions and hobbies to only be enjoyed on the weekends or after work.

The Flow

From a productivity perspective, a lot of experts talk about getting into the flow, where you are completely immersed in a task and can essentially zone out all distractions. In the workplace, the state of flow is highly lauded as the most productive you–as an employee-can be.

When I think of flow in basketball terms, I think about the freedom and adrenaline rush you feel from being completely engaged in a competitive game. I alluded to this feeling in my last post, and wanted to try my best of pinpointing this feeling in words.


It’s a stretch to compare basketball to figure skating, so maybe skateboarding might be a better analogy. On a skateboard, timing, angles, proper use of strength and explosiveness help you ollie onto a ramp or do a kickflip. When you watch some of the top street skateboarders run a course, it feels like watching a perfect performance where the skateboarder’s body parts are all being orchestrated in one fluid movement.

I get that same sense of fluidity when I run down the court on a fastbreak and have to time my steps to lay the ball in. There is a sense of completion, like fulling zipping up a zipper, or closing a Ziplock back, that comes with a well-timed pass to a jump shot or layup. Not the best analogy comparing the fluid movements of basketball to a Ziplock bag, but it was the first thing that came to mind.

Beating Your Opponent

It goes without saying, when you beat someone else one-on-one it simply feels good. More importantly, the feeling of getting past a defender who is equal to you in terms of speed and quickness is one of the best feelings I get from playing basketball. It’s not even about the total domination of another player, but the small wins that take place on one post move or the ability to make a pass down low in zone defense. Those little wins throughout the game only eke me on to get more little wins which results in a string of plays which culminates in 4 quarters of basketball.

The older I get, the more I have to rely on understanding the spacing and angles of the game rather than relying on physical prowess. That has made the game a lot more enjoyable and allows me to come to peace with the fact I can’t jump as high as I could before or dive for loose balls like I used to. To take it up another notch, the game ends up being more like 18 holes of golf where I’m forced to beat myself and improve my skills through constant learning and change.

I think back to 2008 when I was living in San Francisco at the time, and I went to an open run at a gym somewhere in the city. We go there early and the previous group was still on the court playing pickup. I looked more closely at the players and they were all well into their 50s and 60s wearing various braces, knee pads, and sleeves to guard their failing knees and limbs from overuse and degenerative wear and tear. Despite the injuries you sustain and the pain you feel from the physical aspect of the game, you still continue playing to enjoy those moments of fluidity and small wins.



Having A Functional Knee

Over the last 2 months or so, I haven’t been playing basketball but rather going back to my original physio after my knee swelled up from playing basketball over the summer. After getting another MRI, it turns out I have a thickened plica and some minor cartilage damage, but nothing serious. To top it off, my physio said I have symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome which has to do with the joint not tracking correctly.

My focus over the last few months have been strength, since my right quad and VMO are still noticeably smaller than my left non-operative leg. The gains have been slow, and no matter how hard I push or lift, it seems like I’m not making any progress, but I keep on telling myself that each rep, each set, and each repetitive task adds up to a stable and strong knee.

Building Muscle Vs. Function

But what’s the point of getting my right leg to the same exact size as my left? I’ve been thinking about this more and more from a functional perspective, and my physio has helped me realize the mental dilemma I’m putting myself in every time I notice the difference in size between my two legs. Long story short, I used to think that having the exact same power and strength on my operative leg is the goal of coming back to basketball, but I realized that I just need to have a functional leg.

Having super huge quads is great if I’m trying to squat 2X my body weight, but doesn’t necessarily help on the court. There are certain ranges of motion that also make my knee feel uncomfortable like a deep squat or a reverse lunge on my operated leg, but these are all rare positions that I would find myself in an actual 5-on-5 game. I used to think that I cannot feel any pain or discomfort in these specific positions but I’ve relaxed this constraint to focus on what really matters: having a functional knee for basketball.

Having said that, I returned to play about 4 weeks ago playing 20-30 minutes tops per session going about 50-75% effort level. No considerable swelling or discomfort after I play which is awesome! But a few days ago I played two nights in a row and for a longer period and now my knee is a bit swollen on the posterior side. It’s definitely not as bad as the time after I played over the summer, but I’m starting to see the limits of my playing time and functionality

Dilemma Of Not Challenging Your Knee

The biggest challenge I’m facing is knowing when to ease up on the gas and stop playing vs. putting my knee through the stresses and change of motion scenarios to stretch the functionality of my knee. This is a new dilemma I’ve never had to face because in the past, I just played until I was tired from an endurance standpoint, or whenever it was convenient to stop playing. Now, if I play too long I get the swelling which is bad, but if I don’t play enough then I’m not putting sufficient stress on my knee to ensure it can handle a heavier load in the future.

The tough truth is that as we get older, our knee joints and especially the meniscus and cartilage wear down, it’s just a matter of time. I wonder if the discomfort I feel after I play would’ve happened regardless if I had the surgery or not. It sucks to come to this conclusion, but thinking that I can put my knee through the original motions and load I could before is simply insane. The bigger question I’m asking myself now is am I ready to make that lifestyle change to less basketball, and transition to a more “gentle” training regimen like swimming or biking?

I don’t have the answer, and I’m not willing to give up entirely on basketball just yet. Before my injury, I was comfortable going all out on the court and that was my attitude ever since I picked up a basketball in 4th grade. Now more than 20 years later, it’s time to take a step back and look at what really counts.

The goal should be having a healthy knee for life instead of for the short-term highs of playing basketball and risking further damage.

But boy oh boy, the pure joy I felt the day my physio told me to go back to playing for 20 minutes or so. I laced up and pretended like nothing had changed, and was actually making an impact on the court with layups and fast-breaks. Saving that story for the next post.