I was sitting reading yesterday when my dad walked into the room, head dropped looking distraught. “CRAP,” he announced, and he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

Now, it’s an interesting time to walk into a room and declare, “CRAP.” Yeah…it’s all crap, what part are you talking about? Has something new happened that’s even crappier than the crap sandwich we’ve been force fed for the last few weeks? Is the stock market crap again? Is CNN still showing those crappy press conferences? Oh, crap—does your throat hurt?

And so when he went on to say that Harlem Globetrotters legend Curly Neal had died, it seemed like sad news but not something quite deserving of a “CRAP” in light of everything else going on. It wasn’t unexpected. He had died at home, and he was 77. “When I was a kid, I just loved Curly so much,” Dad explained.

He wasn’t alone in his mourning. On Twitter, Steve Kerr wrote, “[It’s] hard to express how much joy Curly Neal brought to my life growing up.” Isiah Thomas said that Curly taught him how to dribble. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg wrote, “When I was a kid, there was nothing more fun than going to see the Harlem Globetrotters. And this man was the reason. He made as many people smile as any athlete that ever lived. About as good an epitaph as you could ever have.”

Curly retired long before I was a kid, but his 22-year career had ripples that extended to my own childhood. My sisters and I wore out the DVD to Scooby Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters, and when we would go outside to shoot hoops, we’d always see how close to the ground we could dribble the ball without losing control. When—rejoice!—our parents relented to our years-long lobbying effort to get a trampoline, we bought a red white and blue Globetrotters ball that we would spend entire afternoons with, throwing if off the backboard during dunk contests.

I spent yesterday searching YouTube for clips of Curly to see why his death was affecting my dad so much in a time when it’s been easy to become numb to tragedies. What I found might just have been the happiest rabbit hole on the Internet. Dribbling was Curly’s specialty, and watching grainy, sometimes black and white videos of him sliding, spinning, and running across the court while keeping the ball bouncing felt, in a weird way, like an instruction manual for how to deal with this current crisis. Maybe that’s an overreach. At the very least, it was a nice respite.

Think about what Curly’s main trick was: All he did was dribble a ball. It’s a skill so central to basketball that it’s almost always an afterthought. For a basketball player, it’s like breathing; you don’t think about doing it, it just happens. When someone does need to add a little flourish, it’s purely utilitarian (Does this get me past the man in front of me?).

Curly dribbled the ball like it was the most fun thing in the world. It was his way of expressing himself, of leaving a little bit of himself on the court. No matter what happened, you could count on the fact that he would just keep on going. He took the simplest, most boring thing and turned it into art. And he always, always smiled.

So many things are disorienting right now, in large part because our lives have shrunk down to the bare essentials. We’re sheltered in place, and we’ve only got our homes, our families, and whatever is left at the grocery store. Is there fun in that? Is there joy? I bet Curly would know.

Maybe what we need right now is to take a cue from the point guard. Maybe we should take these basic acts, this dribbling, and breathe a little of ourselves into them. Maybe we should never forget to smile through it all.