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How To Play Basketball — At Any Age


The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are battling for the NBA championship with players in their 20s and 30s, but the Twomey brothers are in their 80s. They've been playing basketball this week in the National Senior Games in Birmingham. Sherrel Wheeler Stewart of member station WBHM has their story.

SHERREL WHEELER STEWART, BYLINE: Forget about the white hair, the Twomey brothers are basketballers. Their team, Pass It To Me, is one of six teams in the 80-and-over bracket in the Senior Games. At this game against the Pitbulls, John Twomey dribbles toward the basket, spots his brother Dan near the three-point range and dishes off for a quick assist.


STEWART: They defeated the Pitbulls 38-19 in the first game on Wednesday. Despite that win, they knew they needed to improve.

JOHN TWOMEY: I missed a lot of easy layups.

STEWART: That's John Twomey. At 83, he's the oldest brother and the unofficial team coach. He knows what's ahead. In the coming days, the number of games increases and so does the competition.

J. TWOMEY: We've got a team coming in here that's going to be playing in our age group with a guy that's 6'8" and another guy that's 6'9". We're going to beat them but it's going to be a chore.

STEWART: John is the tallest and he has a running hook shot to prove it. Eighty-year-old Tom is usually the best shooter. And his twin brother Dan is the speedster. That speed was on display in today's game. When Tom missed a layup, Dan hustled across the court, grabbed the rebound and laid it in.

TOM TWOMEY: Oh, man.


STEWART: The brothers began playing together as kids about 70 years ago. This is the second time all three have competed together in the Senior Games. It all gelled back on the farm in upstate New York. Back then, Dan says...

DAN TWOMEY: All we had was - at first was just a bushel basket nailed to the barn. And we would play there in the wintertime, as well as the summertime. It was wet or ice (laughter).

STEWART: The Twomey's parents were Irish immigrants who ran a dairy farm. The brothers and their sister Hannah were always busy with chores, but their parents encouraged active sports. The Twomeys say that focus on physical fitness sticks with them today. In Birmingham, the games last 30 minutes, and sometimes they play three games in a day. For Tom, that's not a problem.

T. TWOMEY: Like, I play four times a week for like an hour and a half, full-court, with younger people.

STEWART: And for John, who plays regularly, even after a triple bypass surgery last year, basketball is therapy.

J. TWOMEY: If I got a back ache in the morning, and I sit in the house and treat my back and all, I still got tomorrow. If I got a back ache today and I go out and play basketball, I don't have it tomorrow.

STEWART: The Twomey's team racked up five wins before getting eliminated Friday in their third game of the day. They're not taking home the gold, but they say they'll keep on playing. For NPR News, I'm Sherrel Wheeler Stewart in Birmingham. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sherrel Wheeler Stewart