Chapter 24:

The One and the Four


ManhattanBookmark here

New York City, New YorkBookmark here

USABookmark here

“Okay, guys. This game is close. They’re clearly fighting back, and fighting back hard! But this is our game to win! We need to convert possessions into points! We need to-“Bookmark here

A buzzer rang, signaling the end of the timeout.Bookmark here

“Well, guys. This is it! Go out there and win!”Bookmark here

“You heard what coach said!” yelled Chad. “On three!”Bookmark here

“One! Two! Three! LET’S WIN!” yelled the team.Bookmark here

Kobayashi was pumped. His last three-pointer had boosted the team morale to infinity. He’d just returned the opponents’ best player’s taunts in kind. Bookmark here

But one thing was clear to Kobayashi: The guy, Odai Beckham Jr, would be coming at him with pure, brute, fully charged basketball for the remainder of the game.Bookmark here

Kobayashi now had a good measure of what Beckham Jr was capable of. The guy was tall, had long arms and long legs, which gave him immense speed and reach. Not just that, he had amazing instinct on defense. His footwork was on point. Lastly, he changed direction quickly, and could throw off any hounding defender.Bookmark here

But, he had weaknesses as well. He was a poor free throw shooter and a subpar three-point shooter. Also, his mid-range game was undeveloped.Bookmark here

“That’s his biggest flaw,” thought Kobayashi. “He can’t shoot. He can only dunk and put up floaters.”Bookmark here

He knew they had to exploit Beckham Jr’s weaknesses, or lose the game.Bookmark here

3 minutes left in the game.Bookmark here

With three minutes left and Galveston Tech leading 104-100, Odai Beckham Jr really started shifting gears. He started throwing down powerful dunks on Galveston Tech, taking advantage of Chad Brown’s defense. He seemed to fly in the air like a kite, snatch the ball from mid-air, and throw down loud slams.Bookmark here

“Oh great,” grumped Kobayashi. “He decides to go beast-mode on us now!”Bookmark here

Every time Kobayashi hit a three-pointer or a layup, Odai Beckham Jr would reply with a hammer on their heads. Slowly but steadily, Manhattan University started bridging the score gap. With the scoring spree that Beckham Jr was putting up, it seemed more and more likely that Manhattan would slowly wrest the game from Galveston’s grip.Bookmark here

Odai Beckham Jr threw down another fierce jam. With a thrill of horror, Kobayashi realized that now, Manhattan was ahead by one point, with 15 seconds left in the game.Bookmark here

Chad Brown jumped into the air to dunk the ball and tried to throw it down. Unfortunately, Odai Beckham Jr was faster. He swatted the ball out of Chad’s hands, much to his chagrin. He then recovered the ball and shot towards the other end of the court to dunk it and end the game. Bookmark here

“NO!” yelled Galveston Tech’s coach. “FOUL HIM!”Bookmark here

Kobayashi got in front of Odai, ready to foul and let him shoot free throws. This would assure that Galveston would get the ball after the free throws.Bookmark here

Beckham Jr got in front of Kobayashi, and did a 360 degree spin away from him so fast that Kobayashi couldn’t even process it fast enough to react. He then tried to let the game clock get to zero and ensure victory by just dribbling the ball. But Kobayashi was prepared.Bookmark here

He crouched down and used his signature move, his swipe-steal, to swat the ball away mid-dribble. Beckham Jr’s eyes widened in shock as the stolen ball flew out of his possession.Bookmark here

“GUYS!” howled Kobayashi desperately. “GET THAT BALL AND SCORE!”Bookmark here

It wasn’t to be, however.Bookmark here

The ball moved at a speed so fast that nobody could reach it. It went out of bounds just as the game clock expired.Bookmark here

Manhattan had won, 111-110.Bookmark here

Odai Beckham Jr ran back to celebrate with his team as Kobayashi collapsed to the ground, burning with shame and humiliation. Both coaches embraced and showed appreciation for the other team. Manhattan’s coach was impressed with Galveston Tech, especially Kobayashi.Bookmark here

But not his players.Bookmark here

The Manhattan University players started trash talking Kobayashi in the euphoria of their win.Bookmark here

“A guy your size has no business on a basketball court, pal!”Bookmark here

“Go put on eight more inches!”Bookmark here

“Or wear high heels to games!”Bookmark here

The trash-talkers roared with laughter.Bookmark here

“You trash as hell, man!”Bookmark here

“Be a mascot or something!”Bookmark here

“You’re not a real hoopster!”Bookmark here

“Big talk, guys!” came an angry voice.Bookmark here

The trash-talkers turned back to see Odai Beckham Jr glaring at them.Bookmark here

“Big talk for a bunch of benchwarmers who skip practice!”Bookmark here

The trash-talkers fell silent.Bookmark here

“That ‘mascot’ as you called him, put up 35 points, 7 rebounds, and 18 assists! Has any of you had a game like that in your lives?”Bookmark here

“Umm…no…but…”Bookmark here

“But no, you haven’t. So, attend practice next time,” said Beckham Jr. “Now scram.”Bookmark here

The three miscreants fled the spot.Bookmark here

Odai Beckham Jr looked Kobayashi in the eye. “Sorry about that, bro.”Bookmark here

“Wait, bro?” thought Kobayashi.Bookmark here

“It’s alright, man.”Bookmark here

“What’s your name, bro?”Bookmark here

Kobayashi hesitated, but spoke. “Kobayashi Ichikawa.”Bookmark here

“Where are you from?”Bookmark here

“Tokyo, Japan.”Bookmark here

“You’re amazing, bro! Can’t wait to play you again. It was a good game!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I guess…”Bookmark here

Odai Beckham Jr smiled and left him alone.Bookmark here

“Never mind, guys! Well played!” the coach was saying.Bookmark here

It was then that Kobayashi came up with a resolution.Bookmark here

“I’m never attempting that swipe-steal again! There’s nobody fast enough to recover it!”Bookmark here

Author’s NoteBookmark here

Well, that concludes the first real game we’ve seen in this story. Odai’s team won the game, but Kobayashi gained Odai’s respect. That’s the reason Odai calls him “bro.”Bookmark here

Hopefully, Kobayashi recovers after the heartbreaking loss, and prepares for what lies ahead.Bookmark here

Let’s all support Kobayashi and hope that one day, the swipe-steal will be beck!Bookmark here

CiaoBookmark here

~srj5Bookmark here

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