Picture a vicious, 360-degree, high-flyin', sky-scrapin', ain't-no-mistakin', in-your-face-tomahawk, glass-shattering, slam-bam-jam - DUNK!

Just do it? I've tried.I could have been good - real good. I can post up, shoot a decent hook shot, hit the short turnaround jumper and even run the floor with the best of the big men - in my dreams. Problem is, I'm only 5-foot-10 (probably closer to 5-foot-9, but my driver's license says 5-10, so what the heck?), and I tip the scales at a lean 150 pounds (wearing wet clothes).

Another foot and a half in height plus about 100 pounds of muscle and I would have been great. But since I had the misfortune of being the offspring of a stumpy, asthmatic (but lovable) guy and a woman who lettered in mall shopping in high school, I have been relegated to the armchair point-guard spot and the bench during pickup games at the local gym.

Is my enthusiasm for the hardwood dampened? No way, Jose Ortiz. I'm a hoop junkie. I can sit in front of the television during ESPN's March madness coverage and vegetate enthusiastically through Southwestern Louisiana vs. Tulsa, Northern Iowa vs. South Florida and even hold off going to the bathroom for fear of missing the tip-off of Northwest Central Okie Fenokie Swamp State vs. Anybody U.

I know what you're thinking. You're saying to yourself, "he's sick, he's deranged, he belongs in Baskaholics Anonymous." Know what? You're right.

My basketball obsession started several years back when I just happened to flip on a Jazz game. Until then, I hadn't been very interested in sports (being so slow and wimpy, I didn't really excel in participation sports at school).

I just sat there, watching these sweaty guys run up and down the floor. At one end, a big sweaty guy would push another big sweaty guy, and they would wrestle with each other back and forth in the painted area of the floor underneath the rim. In a few seconds, a smaller sweaty guy would throw one of the big sweaty guys the ball and he would chuck it into the basket.


So after a year of watching games on the tube, now armed with my profound new knowledge of basketball, I decided to test my wares on the court. After all, surely I had matured and grown stronger since my youth, and I must have absorbed some expertise by all that spectating, right? I would soon be slam-dunking and sinking three-pointers at the drop of a pair of gym shorts.

Not being so stupid as to suppose that I could perform these aerial hoop maneuvers on a regulation-size basket, I decided that I might try my luck on one of the 81/2-foot baskets reserved for elementary school kids and disillusioned NBA wannabes like myself.

So I took out a second mortgage on the house and bought a pair of basketball shoes. Whoa, did I look good. Satisfied, I went to a nearby recreation center to strut my stuff - alone. For such a small, slow guy, I found out, I'm a pretty decent jumper (it's gotta be the shoes). After 45 minutes of huffing and puffing, I was sure that I was ready for pro ball. The CBA at least.

I tried all the dunks: one-handed, two-handed, reverse dunks, you name it. In no time, I was all pumped up with hoop machismo.

In your face, Barkley!

Take that, Akeem!

Eat my dust, Magic!

I couldn't believe how good I was. What was I doing working a regular job? Move over, Michael Jordan. Dribbling and slamming along by myself would just not cut it anymore. I was ready for big-time competition. Bring 'em on! Air Mortensen was ready for takeoff!

After I came down from my adrenaline high, I figured that it might be a good idea to take on some guys that wouldn't be quite what I'd be facing when I made the NBA. I was good, that I knew, but I didn't want to overdo it. After considering and rejecting several possibilities, I came up with the perfect victim: a guy I work with in the sports department at the Deseret News.

Absolutely perfect.

My sports friend (who shall remain utterly nameless) played with some of his old high school buddies pretty regularly. I figured that these bums would be ripe for the dunking. In my twisted imagination, I could easily conjure up images of what their faces would look like once they realized how athletically superior I was. They would probably be cringing and whimpering, uttering all manner of unmanly sounds.

This is where I ran into a problem.

It turns out that playing against other guys is a little tougher than going one-on-none with yourself. For one thing, these guys were a lot bigger than I am, and to make matters worse, they could play!

I had planned to rely on my sky-scraping dunk moves because my three-point shot wasn't dropping quite the way it should have been. I learned one thing really quickly: It's pretty darn hard to slam dunk from the seat of your shorts, which is where I spent most of the game.

My game stats? 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 fouls and a nasty, deep thigh bruise.

In layman's terms, I got beat up. Bad.

The weeks I spent limping around trying to recover from my bruise did me some good, though. I was able to examine my obsession with basketball and I came to the conclusion that I can get along without it. And I was soon able to wean myself away from it somewhat. The whole ordeal had a soothing effect on me, and, these days, I feel better about myself. I no longer have basketball-induced megalomaniac tendencies. I'm fine now. I'm cured. Basketball is no longer my life. No, really.

I can prove it.

Just last week, I was able to pry myself away from the national anthem before the tip-off of the Southern State Community Junior Basketball Little Whopper Challenge long enough to make a short trip to the bathroom.