Houston Basketball Stadium
Houston, Texas, USA
5 seconds left on the game clock. (1)
Baltimore Barrage 140 – Houston Spacewalkers 139.
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…
Five seconds left in the NBA Finals.
Five seconds separating eternal glory and an eternal walk of shame.
Five seconds left with the championship at stake!
Lokesh started to take deep, calming breaths. No way was he winning even a packet of biscuits in his current state.
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.
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.
They dared to hope.
They dared to put their faith in one man.
The Indian Basketball God.
They stared longingly at Lokesh Kumar.
Lokesh was dimly aware of this. His ears slowly started to work. He could hear the commentators from their cubicle next to the court.
“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…..”
“They just had to mention the history, didn’t they?” cursed Lokesh.
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!”
“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…”
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.
“Keon will win the jump-ball. If not, Ichikawa, Beckham, or Reynolds will steal the ball!” yelled the coach.
He then turned towards Lokesh.
“You’ll be taking the last shot, Kumar.”
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.
He could hear the crowd’s voices. Imploring him. Pleading with him. Encouraging him…
“Come on, kid!”
“You’ve got this!”
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.
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.
“STOP STARING AT THE BASKETBALL COURT AND START LOOKING INTO YOUR BOOKS FOR ONCE! YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING IN LIFE!”
Lokesh managed a weak smile.
Mrs Anita, his middle school mathematics teacher.
Then, the images started to hit him.
A tall, attractive high school girl with a small ponytail and dark, charismatic, and confident eyes.
She was staring down at him after he’d taken a hard fall.
“Come on, Alien,” she teased. “You let me body you out of the paint again! Absolutely no strength!”
Before he could give her a reply, the image changed.
“YOU’RE QUITTING NOW!?”
It was his dad, and he wasn’t happy.
“YOU’LL NEVER BUILD A STABLE CAREER!”
Then, the scene changed again.
He was in a hospital. The pain was unbelievable. Two nurses and a doctor rushed in.
“Make it stop!” he howled. ‘MAKE IT STOP!!”
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.
“Oh God…” he thought. “Oh good God…”
As he was about to be completely overwhelmed and give in to the insanity, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was Keon Jordan Jr.
The center of the Spacewalkers.
His teammate and friend.
“I just got to win this jump, right?” he said. “Count on me, dude. Make it count”
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.
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.
“That’s right,” he thought. “This is a championship-calibre squad.”
“We’re a championship-calibre squad.”
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.
The tiny Japanese point guard, Kobayashi Ichikawa.
The sixteen-year veteran shooting guard, Danny Reynolds.
The long-legged power forward, Odai Beckham Jr.
And finally, the highly talented centre, Keon Jordan Jr.
What more did he need?
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…
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.
To win a championship.
They were a stacked super-team, the likes of which had never been seen in eighty years of the NBA.
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.
All by looking at his name and jersey
The crowd’s roar further exited Lokesh. He finally felt like himself again, ready to play basketball.
Ready to win.
“Our path to the NBA finals might have been an epitome of hell. That was beyond our control,” thought Lokesh.
“But our path out of this arena can’t be an epitome of hell was well.”
“This, is within our control.”
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 game
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.
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.
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.
5. Technical fouls are given when players show unsportsmanlike behavior or any form of aggressive behavior.