Chapter 0:

Rewind.

64



Bookmark here

Houston Basketball StadiumBookmark here

Houston, Texas, USABookmark here

5 seconds left on the game clock. (1)Bookmark here

Baltimore Barrage 140 – Houston Spacewalkers 139.Bookmark here

Double overtime.(2)Bookmark here

Lokesh Kumar’s vision was a blur. It was now that his team’s situation felt more like a predicament than ever. He was barely aware of his surroundings, courtesy of his exhausted senses refusing to overwork themselves into oblivion. But the game was not over yet. He had to play in the last five seconds of the game…Bookmark here

Five seconds left in the NBA Finals.Bookmark here

Five seconds separating eternal glory and an eternal walk of shame.Bookmark here

Five seconds left with the championship at stake!Bookmark here

Lokesh started to take deep, calming breaths. No way was he winning even a packet of biscuits in his current state. Bookmark here

His senses slowly started to return to him. He was now aware of the crowd. The home crowd was now praying. It had to end. Eighty long years of the Houston Spacewalkers. Eighty long years of continuous disappointment. Regular season failures. Playoffs disasters. Players quitting on the team. Every time a promising player showed up, he’d force his way out. The Houston Spacewalkers were a joke of a basketball team. If one team was built for failure, it was the Houston Spacewalkers. No team had faced more ridicule, or more hate.Bookmark here

But tonight, the fans dared to hope. They dared to hope that eighty years of catastrophe would finally end. Tonight would be the end of their championship drought. Bookmark here

They dared to hope.Bookmark here

They dared to put their faith in one man.Bookmark here

The Indian Basketball God.Bookmark here

They stared longingly at Lokesh Kumar.Bookmark here

Lokesh was dimly aware of this. His ears slowly started to work. He could hear the commentators from their cubicle next to the court.Bookmark here

“Eighty years, ladies and gentlemen. Eighty years of debauched history. Will the Spacewalkers triumph over history tonight? Or will history repeat itself? Will the Gods smile on the…..”Bookmark here

“They just had to mention the history, didn’t they?” cursed Lokesh.Bookmark here

He could now hear the coach. “We’ve got to control the jump-ball (3) at any cost! If Keon loses, go for the steal! If you can’t steal, then foul the opponent! It’s a one-point differential! They take the free throws! We then go in for a three-pointer! Listen, no inbound will be a stupid half-court throw! We start quickly from the other half!”Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, we don’t get to start from our half(4)  if we lose the jump ball and foul them” thought Lokesh. “Oh God…”Bookmark here

In the previous play, his teammate, Keon Jordan Jr., had tried to steal the ball from the opponents’ big man, Deandre Washington. Unfortunately, Washington held on tightly. The referees stopped play and called a jump-ball, but neither player wanted to let go of the ball. This led to a small pushing match between the two centers. The referees had quickly dispersed the fighters. They were now verifying if the actions of any player warranted an ejection, or simple technical fouls (5) for both men. Bookmark here

“Keon will win the jump-ball. If not, Ichikawa, Beckham, or Reynolds will steal the ball!” yelled the coach.Bookmark here

He then turned towards Lokesh.Bookmark here

“You’ll be taking the last shot, Kumar.”Bookmark here

Somewhere, Lokesh knew this was coming. But then, the nerves hit him. The pressure of taking the last, potentially championship winning shot in the dying seconds of the NBA finals was starting to mess with Lokesh. He felt disoriented and could feel everything spinning around him. Bookmark here

He could hear the crowd’s voices. Imploring him. Pleading with him. Encouraging him…Bookmark here

“Come on, kid!”Bookmark here

“You’ve got this!”Bookmark here

His team got up and walked onto the court slowly. They knew the odds. They were feeling the terror of a close, tense game. The crowd cheered loudly.Bookmark here

Amidst the daze of the crowd’s noise, his coach’s voice, and the commentators’ voice, stressing about unnecessary history and games long gone, Lokesh thought he heard something else.Bookmark here

“STOP STARING AT THE BASKETBALL COURT AND START LOOKING INTO YOUR BOOKS FOR ONCE! YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING IN LIFE!”Bookmark here

Lokesh managed a weak smile.Bookmark here

Mrs Anita, his middle school mathematics teacher. Bookmark here

Then, the images started to hit him.Bookmark here

A tall, attractive high school girl with a small ponytail and dark, charismatic, and confident eyes.Bookmark here

She was staring down at him after he’d taken a hard fall. Bookmark here

“Come on, Alien,” she teased. “You let me body you out of the paint again! Absolutely no strength!”Bookmark here

Before he could give her a reply, the image changed.Bookmark here

“YOU’RE QUITTING NOW!?”Bookmark here

It was his dad, and he wasn’t happy.Bookmark here

“YOU’LL NEVER BUILD A STABLE CAREER!”Bookmark here

Then, the scene changed again.Bookmark here

He was in a hospital. The pain was unbelievable. Two nurses and a doctor rushed in.Bookmark here

“Make it stop!” he howled. ‘MAKE IT STOP!!”Bookmark here

Sitting on his bench, in front of his home crowd, with his teammates, coach, and the fans relying on him and the championship at stake, Lokesh felt like he was being trampled. Like he was being bedraggled and harassed by the expectations. Bookmark here

“Oh God…” he thought. “Oh good God…”Bookmark here

As he was about to be completely overwhelmed and give in to the insanity, he felt a hand on his shoulder.Bookmark here

It was Keon Jordan Jr.Bookmark here

The center of the Spacewalkers.Bookmark here

His teammate and friend.Bookmark here

“I just got to win this jump, right?” he said. “Count on me, dude. Make it count”Bookmark here

Lokesh stared at Keon. He understood the unimaginable pressure Keon must be facing. His opponent was seven-foot two, and a vastly skilled, battle-hardened, veteran of a center. Bookmark here

He felt his own fears and insecurities melt away. His teammates had his back. They’d built themselves into a powerful team with a combination of hard work, talent, and team spirit.Bookmark here

“That’s right,” he thought. “This is a championship-calibre squad.”Bookmark here

We’re a championship-calibre squad.”Bookmark here

Lokesh Kumar rose up from his seat to a deafening roar from the crowd. He saw his teammates grinning at him. He knew he was headed into his final battle. And he couldn’t be happier that he was going in with them. Bookmark here

The tiny Japanese point guard, Kobayashi Ichikawa.Bookmark here

The sixteen-year veteran shooting guard, Danny Reynolds.Bookmark here

The long-legged power forward, Odai Beckham Jr.Bookmark here

And finally, the highly talented centre, Keon Jordan Jr.Bookmark here

What more did he need?Bookmark here

He knew each of his teammates had been through horrible adversities to get into this stage. Death of loved ones, doubters, naysayers, bullies…even circumstances beyond their control. Even the coach had faced his share of tragedy. So had the team General Manager…Bookmark here

The opponents glared at them menacingly, talking trash. Each of them was a highly talented, all-star calibre player who left their old teams and joined each other. With one goal.Bookmark here

To win a championship.Bookmark here

They were a stacked super-team, the likes of which had never been seen in eighty years of the NBA.Bookmark here

Each of Lokesh’s teammates felt a jolt of inspiration as they saw him walk past them. They felt a rise in their intensity, energy and desire to win.Bookmark here

All by looking at his name and jerseyBookmark here

KUMARBookmark here

64Bookmark here

The crowd’s roar further exited Lokesh. He finally felt like himself again, ready to play basketball.Bookmark here

Ready to win.Bookmark here

“Our path to the NBA finals might have been an epitome of hell. That was beyond our control,” thought Lokesh.Bookmark here

“But our path out of this arena can’t be an epitome of hell was well.”Bookmark here

“This, is within our control.”Bookmark here

Endnotes:Bookmark here

1. Game Clock: A game clock is a countdown to the game. It is reset every quarter and starts from the 12 minute mark. Each game has 4 quarters, thus, has 48 minutes of play. 5 seconds left on the game clock means 5 seconds left in the gameBookmark here

2. Overtime is an extra period of play. If the regular 48 minutes of the game have passed, and scores are tied, overtime is put into play to determine a winner. Double overtime means that even at the end of the first overtime, scores were still tied. So another overtime was required to close the game. Each overtime lasts five minutes.Bookmark here

3. Jump-ball: A jump-ball is when two players jump to get a ball that has been thrown up by a referee. This is generally called when nobody knows which team should get possession of the ball. Or when two players tangle up with the ball. Jump balls are also played at the start of every game to determine the first possession.Bookmark here

4. If the team takes a timeout, they are allowed to start from the half which they score in. If not, they have to start from the other end of the court.Bookmark here

5. Technical fouls are given when players show unsportsmanlike behavior or any form of aggressive behavior. Bookmark here

64-Cover Page

64


srj5
badge-small-bronze
Author:
Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.