New York City, New York
Halftime arrived with Galveston Tech leading Manhattan University 67-51. Manhattan’s star player, Odai Beckham Jr, was in a serious predicament, sitting on the bench with three fouls. Manhattan’s coach was now beside himself at this turn of events. He was yelling curses and insults that would’ve earned Odai a week of getting his mouth washed with dishwasher soap and washing machine detergent.
“BECKHAM!” he roared. “STOP FOULING!”
“I didn’t intend to foul him, coach,” replied Odai calmly. “The guy is smart. He uses his subpar height to his advantage against much taller players like me. Not to mention his handling, shooting, and passing are elite.”
“THAT DOESN’T CHANGE THE FACT THAT WE’RE DOWN BY SIXTEEN POINTS AT HALFTIME! AND YOU’RE WARMING THE BENCH!”
“Fair enough,” mused Odai.
“Put a different man on him, coach. As a big guy, it pains me to say this, but the fact is that he has the advantage over anyone much taller than him,” advised Odai.
“Fine! Cameron! You’re on Galveston Tech’s number one, Ichikawa. Shut him down!”
“Best of luck, Cameron,” said Odai.
As it turned out, Cameron needed more than just luck.
Manhattan didn’t have another scorer and defender like Odai, and soon, the duo of Ichikawa and Chad Brown started piling on the points and wresting the game from Manhattan’s grasp. Odai couldn’t take it anymore.
Cameron managed to stop Ichikawa from scoring, but the Japanese point-guard was now passing the ball to exactly the right teammate at the right time.
“That’s it, coach,” he said determinedly. “Put me back in.”
Odai re-entered the court to a loud cheer from the gym. They were tired of Galveston running the show on their home turf. If anyone could stop Galveston Tech now, it was their main man, Odai Beckham Jr.
Odai now faced his new defensive matchup, Chad Brown. Unlike the sly fox Ichikawa who had outsmarted him thrice, Chad was much more predictable and his movements were easily matched by Odai. He held Chad in absolute lockdown and could see through all his attempts to escape.
“Of course I know his movements,” thought Odai. “We’re both power-forwards!”
In the last minute of the third quarter, because of Odai’s absolute clampdown of Chad Brown, Manhattan had slowly but steadily crept back into the game. They now trailed by 5 points, the score being 79-74 in Galveston tech’s favor.
On the other end of things, Chad Brown was absolutely helpless against Odai on the offensive side. Odai absolutely finessed Chad and nullified his attempts at stopping him. He scored the easiest of baskets with Chad’s pointless attempts at stopping him.
Cameron threw a powerful, high, lob over the basket. Odai flew into the air and caught the ball one hand. Chad leapt into the air too, trying to block Odai from dunking. But, Odai was in a class of his own. He slammed the ball with such ferocity that Chad’s arms were blown back, but not after touching Odai’s hand.
The referee blew his whistle. “Foul! Galveston number nine! Basket counts! One additional free throw!”
“AND ONE!” howled Odai delightedly, much to the joy of the audience.
Odai stood at the free throw line. The ref threw him the ball. He breathed deeply, trying to concentrate. He then took careful aim and took the shot.
“Oh no…” he thought instantly.
He had never been a good free throw shooter.
But, like a lynx, he caught his own missed free throw before anyone else. Then, he slam-dunked the ball powerfully into the hoop.
The possession had yielded four points.
The score was now 79-78.
Chad Brown shot a poor three-pointer that missed badly. Odai grabbed the rebound and sprinted towards the other end. Just as he was about to try and dunk it, he spotted Ichikawa in front of him, ready to take a charge and draw and offensive foul.
“Not today!” thought Odai.
Odai suddenly stopped running and jumped straight up. He raised the ball in one of his arm and looked at the defender.
“You’re 5’4!” he thought. “No way can you stop this!”
Odai pushed his arm upwards and put up a floater. It went into the basket with a satisfying SWISH.
Odai looked down at Ichikawa. “Basketball is the game of giants, man! It’s a sport of height!”
He’d never been a trash-talker. He’d always let his game do the talking. He’d let his work ethic write volumes about his impact on a game. He usually helped his opponents up after dunking on them or pushing them down. But for the first time, he’d acknowledged the 5’4 Ichikawa as a legitimate threat. His competitive spirit sent his internal pistons into overdrive, ready to win.
Ichikawa was the first player he'd ever trash talked, or acknowledged.
Ichikawa ran up to the other end of the court. “A layup?” mused Odai. “I don’t think so!”
Odai’s long legs covered the entire court so fast that Ichikawa’s brain took two extra seconds to process the fact that he was about to get blocked. But, instead of going for a layup, he ran to the corner to shoot or pass. Odai followed, determined to block him and keep the lead.
80-79 with Manhattan up front.
Ichikawa tried to drive to Odai’s right. But Odai was faster. He blocked the entire lane of Ichikawa, giving him no space to move.
Ichikawa then took another step forward and tried to go at Odai. “Trying to draw a foul on me? It won’t work!” thought Odai. He took another step back to avoid contact.
This was what Ichikawa had been waiting for.
He stopped his run and stepped back with such dexterity and smoothness that Odai was left many feet away from him, courtesy of his long legs. Ichikawa then shot a corner three pointer.
“Miss!” yelled Odai.
The ball didn’t even touch the rim as it went into the hoop with a SPLASH.
The crowd groaned. Ichikawa looked Odai straight in the eyes.
“I humbly disagree, Mr. Beckham, with something you said earlier!”
The score was 82-80 in Galveston Tech’s favor.
“Basketball isn’t a sport of height. It’s a sport of skill!"
Well, the exam is over! And ‘64’ will continue as usual with one chapter a day.
Thanks for all the love and support