Going one-on-one, McRae slips, her legs nearly scissoring into splits, but recovers to score. She dances in front of the net while El-Amin Gateward snaps each pose with an imaginary camera. “Give ’em face, Sis!” El-Amin Gateward screams in delight. “Give ’em face!” That two black girls are celebrating their lacrosse skills — honed enough to take them to college — is something of a rarity. Lacrosse is played in predominantly white, affluent areas. At the NCAA level, 86.4 percent of Division I women’s lacrosse players in 2015-16 were white, while just 2.8 percent were black.
On Jan. 17, 2014, Madison Holleran leaped off the ninth level of a parking garage in Philadelphia. She died at 19.
Reagan shivered. Images of her own life swirled around her head: years of masking her pain, years of blocking out her shame, years of wishing she inhabited a body other than her own. “That honestly could have been me,” Reagan said. “If things would have been different … I have no doubt in my mind that that could have been me.”
The women file into the gym, most in their late 40s to early 60s and most Asian American, every one of them eager for tipoff.
It’s a Sunday morning at a high school in Huntington Beach, but these women have been playing basketball in gyms like this, on mornings like this, for decades.
Today, it’s the High Rollers against Forever Kidz. Both teams are part of the Orange Coast Sports Association, which sponsors a basketball league of mostly Japanese American women age 40 and older. They play today because they still love the game more than they hate the sprained ankles and floor burns that come with it. But for much of the 1970s and ’80s, the best players from each squad were teammates on Imperials Purple, the most loved, feared and copied women’s basketball team of its day. In the vibrant world of Japanese American basketball, the Imperials of a certain era were a blend of Showtime Lakers and John Wooden-era UCLA Bruins. Only perhaps even a little more dominant.