By Nate LeBlanc
As a child, shooting hoops in my driveway, I knew every angle off the backboard, every crack in the pavement, every boundary real and imagined. Though I had a group of neighborhood kids I regularly played with, I spent a lot of time shooting, dribbling, and daydreaming out there by myself. On the days when I had a particularly good day shooting, I felt like I could play with, and maybe even beat Michael Jordan. I’d practice last-second buzzer-beaters, high-arching shots over his outstretched fingers, and I could practically hear the applause when I, a short, chubby kid with minimal skills, improbably succeeded in beating the best to ever pick up a ball. I would relish the fantasy until the streetlights came on, take a long drink from the hose, and then go inside, eat dinner, and do my homework. What I didn’t do was spend the rest of those idyllic evenings stitching a crude replica of my imagined uniform, forging elaborate scorecards of the epic one-on-one battle, and recording my own Sportscenter-style highlight tapes documenting the historic event. If I had done all of that for about fifteen or twenty years, without telling anyone, all the while diligently shooting threes from the sidewalk and waiting for the moment when a wayward NBA scout came trolling for talent down Edenwood Drive, I might have been a sort of basketball version of Mingering Mike.
The strange saga of “Imaginary Soul Superstar” Mingering Mike, familiar to readers of Soulstrut and Wax Poetics but basically unheard of in the world at large, has gotten much more interesting in the past months with the release of a definitive book-length account of his career and the 45-only release of one of his few recordings.