It was the abundance of sports drinks left over from the road race the day before. It was tunes emanating from the small stereo on the picnic table, popscicles, the relentless sun radiating off the asphalt and that relaxed camaraderie forged when shirts take on skins in a friendly game of pick-up basketball.
The Alex Cohen Basketball Marathon celebrated its 20th year Sunday at the Chilmark Community Center complete with summer stereotypes soon to be immortalized in nostalgic recollections as the summer season come to an end.
Friends came and went, jumping in games with a raise of the hand. Newcomers made quick introductions on the court as five-man teams circled around the jump ball.
Some games went to seven, some went longer and each ended with repeated confirmations that it was in fact a good game. Scores were never recorded and soon forgotten. As the afternoon stretched on, the players threw longer shadows across the court and their sprints slowed to jogs, then, after breaks beneath the trees, moved back to sprints again.
Age was no issue. No one was too young, no one too old, only height differences were highlighted — like when a vocal middle-schooler watched in silence as the trajectory of his shot was drastically altered by the long arms of his 20-something opponent.
The donation box swelled to $2,300. Proceeds, like every year, would be donated to the Chilmark Community Center and other nonprofits.
This sweaty congregation, in what has become a fast-growing up-Island tradition, met in memory of Alex Cohen, a Chilmark summer kid who loved basketball and was heavily involved in the community center. He died in a car accident in 1991 when he was 19. In 1988, when he was 16, Alex and some friends came up with the idea of playing hours of basketball and collecting donations.
His father Irv and many of his friends, like Luke Weinstock, still play in the games every year. Mr. Cohen estimated that some 50 people had come to play throughout the day, and maybe 20 stayed the whole time. When 6 p.m. arrived. everyone lined up on the side of the court for a picture. They smiled and together cheered, “Yay for Alex!”