Los Angeles, California
The atmosphere was electric in the gymnasium. A high-octane game was taking place between Orange County High School and St. Gregory High School from Denver, Colorado. The game was as close as could get, with the score being 121-119 in Orange County High’s favor. It was at this juncture that the opposition coach used his final timeout and pulled his team aside.
Odai Beckham Jr. was exhausted. He knew that if St. Gregory’s scored even a layup, the game would go into overtime. He surveyed his team’s condition and figured out quickly that they were just as exhausted as him. Nobody on the team had enough gas left in them to survive overtime. They’d get steamrollered if that happened.
A buzzer rang to signal the end of the timeout. Both teams slowly sauntered back onto the court. The coaches were screaming orders. Drops of sweat rolled off Odai’s face. His muscles tightened up, waiting for the opponents to inbound the ball.
It was now or never!
The opponent player quickly inbounded the ball to his teammate. The teammate dribbled the ball slowly into the paint and looked around. Four of Orange County High’s defenders had started to converge around him. One of his teammates quickly set him a screen (1), giving him some breathing space. He faked a shot and passed the ball to another teammate waiting in the corner for a three-pointer. But, the four player had figured out the plan. They quickly crowded around trying to stop the shot.
One player didn’t figure out their plan.
It was Odai Beckham Jr.
With the paint now empty, and the player who had driven into the paint incapacitated, the corner-shooter quickly put up a high-arcing three-point shot. It went like a projectile neatly towards the basket. The thought of losing the game terrified the players of Orange County High. They couldn’t move. They could only watch the shot float gracefully towards the hoop.
One player didn’t figure out their plan.
It was Odai Beckham Jr.
He had figured out their modus operandi!
The pass floated neatly towards another player, the guy who had set the screen. He leapt up and caught the ball, intending to dunk it hard.
“Oh God! We didn’t see through that!”
“He’s going to dunk it!”
“We’re going into overtime!”
The guy was wide open for a dunk!
Or so he thought.
With almost impossible agility, Odai Beckham Jr pivoted off one foot, avoided the player who had driven into the paint, and sprung up into the air. As the opponent player tried to finish his wide-open dunk, Odai’s hand obstructed the ball with such powerful inertia that the player felt he’d tried to dunk on a wall, not a person. The block was so solid that the guy lost balance and crashed to the ground.
The final buzzer rang, signaling Orange County High’s victory.
Odai Beckham Jr didn’t figure out their plan.
He figured out their modus operandi!
A simple semi pick-and-roll play. (2)
He had won the game for his team!
“Good game, guys!” exclaimed their coach. “Though, I have question for you all. Why did four of you run to stop one guy! I told you to stay on your marks! If it wasn’t for Beckham, we’d be in overtime!”
Odai, however, wasn’t satisfied.
“Next time,” he thought. “Next time I’ll build up enough stamina to play into overtime! I need to be there till the very end!”
Odai returned back to his orphanage after the game. Unlike his parents’ house. He actually didn’t mind living at the orphanage. He’d made some great friends there and everyone was captivated by his height. People treated him well and with respect. He never had to worry about drugs or gang violence anymore.
He was safe now.
But, his prediction had turned out to be true. Despite the fact that he was innocent, nobody really wanted to adopt a guy who was freshly released from a juvenile penitentiary. Odai wasn’t super disappointed, however. He knew that only he could make or break his life from here. Only he could forge his destiny.
He knew that he had to play good enough basketball for some college scout to notice him. This would earn him a chance to play in the NCAA (3). And hopefully, allow him to play in the NBA.
Nobody was going to stop him.
“Odai!” yelled the caretaker. “You have a visitor! I’m sending him upstairs!”
The visitor knocked and came into Odai’s room. “Odai Beckham Jr?”
“I was there at your game earlier. What a block! You honestly have a lot of potential!”
“Thank you, sir. How did you know where I live?”
“Your coach,” said the visitor. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your parents?”
“They got shot,” said Odai stiffly. “So did my brothers.”
“I’m sorry,” said the visitor apologetically. “By the way, I’m Brad Wills. I’d like to make you an offer. You’re graduating high school soon, right?”
“Well, that’s good. Well done. I’m a scout for the University of Manhattan, New York. We have a great basketball program that we think would fit you and your play style perfectly. We’re offering a huge athletic scholarship to bolster our team with you!”
“I’m flattered, sir. But New York? The east coast?”
“Do you have anything against the east coast?” asked Brad with a tiny smile.
“No, sir. No slander intended. But that’s a long distance away!”
“I understand. But we also know that you live in an orphanage and cannot afford college. So we’re willing to offer you a full-ride athletic scholarship (4)! No other university is willing to do the same. We checked out your academics and found them satisfactory. Now, do us a favor and perform well on the SATs (5). Your college fees will be on us!”
“It is ridiculously hard to get an athletic scholarship, especially a full-ride athletic scholarship…” Odai thought to himself.
“Sir, I’d be happy to take you up on your offer!”
There was a small party at the orphanage to celebrate Odai receiving and accepting a college offer. The caretaker made roast turkey and chicken nuggets for the kids. The smell of food wafted around the orphanage and ignited a raging hunger in the kids’ bellies.
Odai, however, was hungry to go out and compete at the collegiate level.
“Hey, Odai! You’re on TV!” screamed a little girl.
Odai went to check it out. A news reporter read, “Today, in a high school basketball game, 18 year old NBA prospect Odai Beckham Jr put up a game-winning block to help his team over Denver’s St. Gregory’s High. Beckham Jr also posted 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.”
“Nice one, Odai!” squealed the little girl.
Odai ruffled her hair and sat next to her to watch more news. “Orange County High’s coach says he is very proud of Beckham Jr and expects a lot from his young player.”
Then, the news article changed.
“Breaking news, as per Abdul Zaman of USA Sports Chronicle, superstar small-forward Josh Okongo has been traded to the Baltimore Barrage for a handful of draft picks. This list contains a 2025 first round pick and second round pick, and a 2026 first round pick and second round pick (6). The rumors that Josh Okongo wanted out of the Houston Spacewalkers have proven to be true. This is a sad, sad, day for the Houston Spacewalkers and their fans! And, the Spacewalkers Championship Curse will continue for a little longer…”
“Shame,” said the caretaker, carrying in the roast turkey. “He was a real franchise player. He had the respect of everyone!”
“Not my respect anymore,” said Odai.
“I hate guys who do all the wrong things for some short-term happiness. Happiness that doesn’t even count! They end up letting people who love them down!”
In his eyes, Odai was seeing the images of his late parents and brothers.
1. Screen: A screen, also called a "pick" is a legal block set by an offensive player on the side of or behind a defender in order to free a teammate to take a shot or receive a pass.
2. Pick-and-Roll: The pick-and-roll (or screen-and-roll) is when a teammate puts their body in front of the defender who is guarding the player who has the basketball. The pick-setter will then roll or move towards the basket so that the ball handler now has two options: pass the ball or take it themselves for a shot.
3. NCAA: The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes. The NCAA basketball tournament is a tournament for basketball players at the college level.
4. Full-Ride College Scholarship: A full ride scholarship is an award that covers all expenses related with college. This includes tuition, books, fees, room and board, and possibly even living costs. The goal is to remove any need for additional financial aid.
5. SAT: The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States.
6. Draft Pick: A draft pick is an asset that allows you to own a spot in a list of teams which will draft players in that year’s draft. First round pick means you will get a chance to pick a player at one particular spot in the first round. Second round pick means the same but for the second round.