When I was in middle school, I suffered the misfortune of enduring a horizontal growth spurt, rather than a vertical one. My grandma called it “a phase,” which was fairly accurate, except the “phase” ended up lasting four years. During that time, there was no denying that I was what one might call husky. Or, to put it more bluntly, chubby. So chubby, in fact, that I claimed former University of Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin — who was also quite rotund — as my favorite basketball player.
The association with El-Amin only paid dividends one time in my entire life. I was in seventh grade, sitting in Spanish class working on some sort of group project, when the girl I had a huge crush on asked me if I knew the name of UConn’s portly little superstar. I looked around first to make sure she wasn’t talking to someone else, then picked my jaw up off the ground and managed to stutter, “Uh, you mean, uh, Khalid El-Amin?”