Setagaya City, Tokyo
The passengers on board the train were heading home after long, mundane, days at work. Apparently, everyone was having a miserable day. The poor souls did not want to prolong their agony anymore. They were only thinking of a peaceful train ride and a nice sound sleep.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.
Some of the passengers let out a loud groan as a tiny kid with not one, or two, but four basketballs, got onto the train, bumping into people at random.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized profusely. “Excuse me!”
“Kids these days,” thought a tiny old lady angrily. “Absolutely no manners! Wonder who’s raising this fine creature.”
Ichikawa Kobayashi (1) got off the train at Shibuya. His home was a little distance away from the train station. Like many Japanese people, Kobayashi preferred to use public transport and walk any extra distance. He started his walk home.
The Ichikawa family residence was the most ordinary house in Shibuya City. Probably in all of Tokyo. Kobayashi entered the house and took off his shoes. “I’m home!” he announced.
“Welcome back!” answered his mother. “How were your school basketball team try-outs?”
“Amazing!” grinned Kobayashi. “I posted twelve points and twelve assists! A double-double! (2)”
“Well, that’s great! Hopefully, you get selected!” said his mom.
“Oh, I’m getting selected all right,” said Kobayashi confidently. “My numbers don’t lie.”
He proceeded to his room, got changed, and got his homework done while listening to music. Kobayashi wanted to excel in everything, basketball, academics, and even things like singing and dancing. His extreme competitive spirit stemmed for the fact that he was always made fun of. And all the teasing would only go on to ignite a fierce competitive spirit in the boy. Everything he did, he had to do it perfectly.
He started seeing flashes of the try-out game he’d just played. He’d shot a three pointer five times, and he’d made four of them. Each shot would arc like a perfect rainbow and SWISH.
He then started to focus on his assists. Kobayashi had developed his ball handling and shooting to be a good scorer. But his sharpest skill was his passing. Each of the passes he’d thrown were perfect. They’d streaked between the hapless opponents’ legs, over their heads, beyond their outstretched arms, to find themselves safely in the hands of a teammate, who would then score the easiest basket of his life.
“I managed to throw the ball under two people’s legs at once and into my teammate’s hands,” he thought. “Their reactions were legendary!”
Kobayashi had but one goal. To sharpen each and every skill in his book, and one day, make it to the NBA. But the dream didn’t stop there. Far from it…
Kobayashi wanted to be the first Japanese NBA player to win a championship ring (3).
“The players who tried out for the school team will be receiving emails regarding their selection status”, announced the principal on the school microphone. “I wish everyone the best.”
After the announcement, Kobayashi’s classmates had crowded him, cheering and wishing their friend the very best. Even in the cafeteria, they were joking about how he’d forget them after joining the school basketball team.
Suddenly, three other students started jeering at the group. Kobayashi recognized them as fellow players who’d tried out for the team. “What’s the matter, guys?” he asked.
“It’s actually kind of funny that Kobayashi thinks he’s making the team,” said one of the boys.
“You’re not making the team, stupid.”
“Or any team.”
“You’d better resign yourself to this fact.”
“I’m making the team!” said Kobayashi incredulously. “My numbers don’t lie!”
The three boys broke into heart guffaws and burst into a poor imitation of Kobayashi. “Numbers don’t lie!”
This was met with further peals of laughter.
From the entire cafeteria
Kobayashi sat in his room, eagerly awaiting the email. The fire inside him was burning. He wanted to prove those fools wrong. He knew he had what it took to be a great basketball player, and an NBA champion.
One hours passed. Two hours passed. Four hours passed. Kobayashi nodded off to sleep, courtesy of the long, boring wait time. Finally, his phone blinked. He bolted awake and grabbed it, tapping on the email with trembling fingers.
What he saw was incredible.
The players who had made the team were:
1. Daisuki Akiteru.
2. Hiiyama Yuuki.
3. Nakamura Kentaro.
He looked at the name of the rejected candidates and his name was sitting on the very top.
1. Ichikawa Kobayashi.
What he saw was incredible.
Reason for Rejection:
Kobayashi let out a loud sob.
Reason for Rejection: Not tall enough.
Kobayashi’s tiny frame, which had earned him ridicule throughout his life, was now acting as his biggest bane. A thorn in the path of his dream.
Kobayashi failed to make his school team. After posting a double-double.
1. Ichikawa is his last name, and Kobayashi the first name. It’s common in Japan to use your last name first.
2. A double-double is a stat line achievement where two of your stats are in the double-digit range.
3. When an NBA player wins a championship, he is awarded a medal of honour, and a ring signifying his achievement.