This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

It hit me when I caught a perfect outlet pass in the open court. The open court is where I want to be buried. It’s my favorite place on Earth. It’s where I fell in love with the game. Not to get all cheesy on you, but the open court is the Niagara Falls of creative juice.

Anyway, all that stood between me and the bucket was an unassuming big man with a smile on his face and nary an ounce a fat on his body. I gave him the patented shimmy to the left and explosion dribble to the right. Only this time I couldn’t explode. I couldn’t even keep my balance as I tripped all over myself, desperately heaving the ball toward the rim. He swatted that bouquet into next year. He didn’t even have to jump. Poor guy almost felt bad as he reached out his hand to help an old man off the floor.

That’s when I knew: It’s over.

Do you realize how hard it is to type that? IT’S OVER. I can’t play basketball anymore.

I can’t play pick-up at the D.A.C., or the Golden Rec, or Berkeley Park. I can’t do it without crawling out of bed the next morning, pain shooting up my back and arthritis throbbing in my ankles. I’m convinced man invented the handrail just to help worn-out ballers find their way to the breakfast table.

Basketball has been my life. Not exaggerating. The game has defined me, guided me, entertained me, challenged me and, most importantly, revealed me. I fell in love with the game when I was 12., when I begged my dad to bolt an old KMart backboard to the side of our North Denver townhouse. We wore that sucker out. My brother and I took on all comers, playing 2-on-2 deep into the night, hours after the moon posted-up the sun.

And when I turned 16? Huge. It was a license to drive to every gym, every blacktop court in town. Alcott Park, Bishop Park (it had lights!), 20th Street Gym, Secrest Middle School, Westy Rec Center. We played pickup all day, every day. By the way, why don’t kids play pickup anymore? The game has gotten way too organized. But that’s for another day.

At Notre Dame, we’d play “beer ball” at The Rock on Friday nights. Losers had to chug. You didn’t want to lose that first game. Believe it or not, Notre Dame is a big hoops school. Each spring, it hosts the world’s largest 5-on-5 basketball tournament – Bookstore Basketball. My senior year I was voted the tournament’s MHP – Most Hated Player. Wore that like a badge of honor. I’ve always been a trash-talker, on and off the court. Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of Twitter, which is basically the cyber version of trash-talking – 140 characters, machine-gun style.

Even into my 40s, I scheduled weekly events around pick-up basketball. Every city I visited, I was always looking for a run. You never leave home without packing your hoops shoes.

The most memorable pick-up game I ever played? June 2007, Denver Athletic Club. Just another Tuesday night putting up shots between newscasts at CBS4, I noticed something different that night. A lot of Secret Service-looking dudes hanging around the gym. And there he was – future leader of the free world on the campaign trail, looking for a game.

Obama: “Can you go grab a couple more guys so we can run full court?”

Me: “Uhh, sure. Let me see what I can find.”

So I scurried into the weight room, found four other D.A.C. members (shocked to say the least) and we played pickup against Obama and his crew all night long. As luck would have it, I couldn’t miss that night. I went full Steph Curry with a soon-to-be U.S. President guarding me. Greatest hoops moment of my life.

I turn 47 in May*. May 21 to be exact. That’s the day I’m gonna retire. If I were a big guy, I’d probably play another 10 years or so. Big guys just have to be big. But when you’re 5-foot-9 (5-foot-8 and ¾ according to my last physical), you rely heavily on guile and speed. The guile is still there. The quicks? They gone.

Basketball was fun because I was somewhat good at it. It was fun because I got lost in it. All my anxiety, frustration, baggage – poof – all gone the second I stepped on the court. It’s just not fun anymore. I’m not that good anymore. And I don’t want to be “that guy” who lowers the curve. I’m too prideful and competitive to be “that guy.”

The game has been good to me. The game has consumed me. But now it’s time for me to give back to the game – by walking away.

I got next. Whatever next is.

*Editors’ Note: Vic Lombardi is a longtime friend and contributor to Mile High Sports Magazine. This particular piece was written in April 2016, when Vic was still 46. On August 8, 2016, Vic scored 13 points with four rebounds, two assists and a steal in a men’s league game at the Denver Athletic Club. As far as we know, he’s yet to “officially” retire from basketball.