Los Angeles, California
Gus knew he was trapped. Two defenders swarmed him intensely, determined to get a stop. They got into his space, trying to poke, swat, and grab the ball from him.
“Great…” thought Gus. “There isn’t even a referee here to call a foul.”
“Hey! Pass it here!” came a reassuring voice.
Gus flung the ball towards the source of the voice. A young teenager with braids received the pass. His eyes scanning the defenders’ movements, determined to break through…
His long legs covered so much ground in one stride that the defenders were left in the dust, courtesy of the incredible speed. In four steps, the teenager went all the way to the hoop and put up a floater shot (1). It went in with a satisfying splash of the net.
Suddenly, the bell rang, signifying the end of the play-period.
All prisoners were to return to their cells immediately.
Years of playing prison-ball had turned Odai Beckham Jr. into a strong, wiry young man. He had gotten accustomed to the rough, no-rules style of basketball played by his fellow inmates. But most importantly, the game gave him a purpose. It gave him a reason to live. Satisfied with the day’s efforts, he proceeded to high-five Gus and return slowly to his cell.
“Don’t forget, Beckham,” said a prison guard. “Your lawyer is coming to see you today.”
Odai nodded and slipped back into his cell.
At about four in the evening, Odai’s lawyer, Richard McKay, came to visit him in his cell. “Hey, champ! How’re you doing?”
“I’m doing okay, sir. How about you?” replied Odai.
Richard scanned Odai closely and noticed he was tired and sweating. “You look exhausted. What’s the matter?”
“Was out playing some basketball, sir. I hope I can play professionally one day!”
“That dream may not be too far off, son,” said Richard.
“What do you mean, sir?”
Richard smiled. “I think I can get you out of here!”
After what seemed like forever, Odai’s hearing at the court had been scheduled. Richard truly believed that he had all the evidence he needed to get Odai acquitted of all charges.
“Your Honor,” said Richard loudly. “My client, Mister Odai Beckham Jr, has been languishing at the California State Juvenile Penitentiary on false charges levelled against him by the prosecutor and because of a poor investigation by the police.”
He unwrapped a bag. “This is some image and video proof, Your Honor. Recently, the police department has made a series of arrests. The arrested men were either buying or dealing drugs. I took the liberty to ask them a few questions for the sake of my investigation.”
He handed the judge the proof and the images. “These men, Quentin Sanchez and Phillip White, were buying drugs off these dealers, Your Honor. They have confessed that they have never seen this child hanging out with the dealers, who happened to be his late brothers, Okong and Oboi. To further my point, the police have arrested a gang of men who had a rivalry with his brothers’ gang. They have also confessed that they killed his brothers. These men have never seen my client dealing drugs along with his brothers, hence, they didn’t take his life on that fateful day.”
“Objection, Your Honor,” said the prosecutor. “The men could have spared his life because he was a child!”
“These men have killed every man, woman, and child they believed were getting in the way of their business,” replied Richard. “If they felt my client was well and truly involved, he wouldn’t be here today. It is recorded in their statements.”
“Go on,” said the judge.
“We also extracted a statement from his teachers and neighbors, Your Honor. They have described him as a usually quiet child. He never showed any signs of being under the influence, or trying to make deals. His cognitive function always seemed to be working, hence, dissipating the argument that my client was a user, or a dealer, of substance. Further, his blood reports from that time have all been negative, indicating he has no record, or no connection, with any of this.”
The judge took her time to go through all the proof given to her by Attorney Richard McKay. Richard caught Odai’s eye and winked. He held up his hand to tell Odai to remain calm and collected…it would be over soon.
“Why did it take so long to collect these proofs, Richard?” asked the judge.
“Your Honor, these gang members and their customers were hard people to find and arrest. The police launched a manhunt which has lasted years. And I had to be allowed to collect their statements”
“Hmm,” said the judge, flipping to the other side of a sheet of paper.
“After going through the proofs submitted by Attorney Richard McKay, the court has seen fit that Mister Odai Beckham Junior be acquitted of all charges. Furthermore, the court shall issue a formal apology and reimburse his time spent in prison under false charges,” announced the judge.
“The court is dismissed!”
“Thank you, sir!” said Odai, as Richard stepped out of the courtroom.
“No need to thank me, kid. The court has been paying me well to handle your case!” grinned Richard.
“What do I do now, sir? I have no family and nowhere to go! I don’t want to go back to my old neighborhood…”
“We’re not sending you back there,” said Richard firmly. “You’re going to be housed in an orphanage near Orange County, far away from Van Nuys. With some luck, a family will adopt you and give you a new life! You’ll be given some money and a formal apology by the court. You’ll also be attending school again, like a normal kid.”
Odai said his goodbyes and stepped out. A police car was waiting to take him to his new home. It was already filled with his belongings. With a start, Odai realized he’d never be seeing his fellow inmates again, or playing basketball with them.
As the police car slowly traversed the Los Angeles landscape and made its way towards Orange County, Odai felt a sense of foreboding. He slowly started to realize that nobody was going to adopt a guy fresh out of prison. He would have to build his life again…from his new orphanage.
“Cheer up, kid,” said one of the cops. “If you ever feel sad or lonely, feel free to talk to me,” he added, slipping Odai a card with his phone number written on it. “The cops who shot your parents are definitely suspended. So don’t worry about it. Study hard, work hard, and lead a productive life!”
“Thank you, officer,” said Odai.
The cop noticed Odai fidgeting in his seat but paid no attention to it. After reaching the orphanage, he ushered Odai out of the vehicle, and instantly figured out the reason for his uneasiness.
This kid was huge. Officer John Charleston was a pretty tall man himself, standing at six-foot one. But the kid towered over him and his partner. “He’s at least six-foot six! And he’s sixteen years old!” thought John. He shook himself out of his reverie. “So, kid, what’s the plan?”
Odai Beckham Jr. grinned. “I’m going to join my school basketball team and earn myself an athletic scholarship at a college, sir.”
“You’ll see me in the NBA one day!”
1. Floater: A floater is a high arcing, low range shot. It generally involves a player pushing the ball into the air in a high arcing motion while aiming for the basket.