Chapter 32:

We Pick First.





The GM of the Houston Spacewalkers, Marcello Rodriguez, opened up his laptop. This was one conversation he had been dreading, and not without reason.

The 2025-26 season had been a disaster for the franchise. They had won only 20 out of their 82 games. The only bright spot had been the improvement of the three rookies, Odai Beckham Jr, Chad Brown, and surprisingly, even the 5’5 point-guard from Japan, Kobayashi Ichikawa. By the end of the season, NBA analysts had finally felt that the three had a good future in the NBA. Another bright spot in the cataclysmic season had been the veteran leadership of Danny Reynolds.

But now, as the GM, he had to address his team after the terrible season. And he wasn’t looking forward to it.

Marcello connected with the team on Skype to see their glum, depressed faces. “God, help me cheer these guys up,” he thought. “They deserve so much more!”

“Good evening, guys!” he said to the team, who raised their heads attentively. “I understand what everyone is thinking. I get that this has been a tumultuous season for all of us. But, adversity must bring out the fighter in us. This season isn’t the end for us! We regroup next season, stay strong, and fight again!”

“Yes, sir,” said Danny Reynolds.

“All of you are currently under contract (1),” said Marcello. “I give you all my word as GM, that none of you will be waived or traded! You will continue to represent this city!”

“YES, SIR!” said the team loudly.

“To the rookies,” he continued. “Some of the best players in NBA history have had terrible rookie seasons, but they’ve bounced back! What’s important is how you regroup and take the challenge again!”

“Yes, sir!” said Odai Beckham Jr.

“Good!” said Marcello. His chest swelled with emotion as he looked at his team with utmost pride. “This year’s draft is coming soon! May the odds be in our favor! Remember, we will be back!”

“ONE! TWO! THREE! END THE CURSE!” yelled the team.

“That, we will,” smiled Marcello.


The Baltimore Barrage lost narrowly to the Las Vegas Decks in that year’s NBA finals. Now that the season was over, it was time for Marcello to shift his attention fully to the draft. He knew that nobody from free agency would come to Houston, and he couldn’t trade his players or draft picks for anyone new.

Everything relied on one draft.

The draft lottery (2) that year was packed with anticipation. Many teams wanted to pick at the top, and Marcello knew that everything now rode on luck.

He had wanted NBA and Houston Spacewalkers legend Terry Parker to represent the team at the draft, but Terry declined respectfully as he didn’t want to reminisce the unpleasant memories of his failed career by returning to the NBA world. With a heavy heart, Marcello decided to represent his own team at the draft lottery.

The deputy commissioner of the NBA started to read out the draft lottery order one by one. “The tenth pick goes to,” he opened a placard. “The Miami Coasters!”

Marcello’s heart nearly dropped into his stomach multiple times as the deputy commissioner pulled out placards that almost looked like his team’s, but fortunately turned out not to be. He knew that his team needed a top three pick. Otherwise, they’d never win.

He snapped out of his stupor to realize that the man was about to announce the fourth pick. If his team fell fourth, he knew that the player to be drafted would not build a championship culture in the team. Rather, he could not.

“The fourth pick goes to,” he opened the placard. “The San Antonio Rodeo!”

Marcello cheered mentally. His team was in the top three! They would probably get a guy who’d lead them to a championship!

“The third pick goes to,” he read the placard. “The Los Angeles Stars!”

“Wow, another top three pick! They picked second last year!” he thought.

With a thrill of joy, he realized his team would pick top two now. They had a 50% chance of picking first! The first pick could be a franchise-changer!

“The second pick goes to,” he read the placard and smiled.

Marcello’s heart was pounding so fast that he tightened his grip on the armrests of his chair to prevent himself from passing out. He was sweating like mad and he felt dizzy.

“The New York Skyscrapers! Which means, the first overall pick goes to the Houston Spacewalkers!”

“YES!” yelled Marcello happily. “YES! YES! YES!”

He ran out of the room in utter joy. “Guys, we pick first! We pick first!”

The entire front office of the Houston Spacewalkers erupted into loud cheers. They finally sensed the direction of the franchise changing, and the curse at long last coming to an end.

“Guys, listen up! I’m proud of us and what we’ve achieved! But the real grind starts now!” yelled Marcello. “I want everybody to scout, research, and analyze stats like crazy over the next few weeks! We need a franchise-changing first pick!”

Suddenly, his phone rang, it was the deputy commissioner of the NBA. “Congratulations, Mr. Rodriguez!” he said ecstatically. “I hope your pick changes your team for good!”

“Thank you, sir!” said Marcello.

“Another piece of information, Mr. Rodriguez,” continued the deputy commissioner. “You also have the last pick, as in, the 60th pick in the draft. Use it well!”

“Yes, sir!” said Marcello.

After Marcello hung up the call, his assistant, Laura, came up to him. “Is there really a reason to research, sir?”

“What do you mean, Laura?” asked Marcello.

“The first pick is obvious, sir! There’s a consensus number one pick this year! The best in the draft-class!”

Marcello raised his eyebrows. “Who?”

Laura smiled. “Keon Jordan Jr!”


That night, Marcello made another phone call.

“Ravi? Ravi? Can you hear me?”

Ravi was a man he had met on his trip to India. He was a tour guide who really helped Marcello out on his trip to the Buddhist monastery.

“Yes, sir. I can hear you,” said Ravi.

“Ravi, we got the first pick! This could change the team!”

Ravi didn’t really understand basketball or the NBA. But he could sense that whatever it was, it was making Marcello happy. “Congratulations, sir!”

“Thank you, Ravi!” said Marcello. “Listen, I want to revisit the monastery and meet the head monk there again! His advice was so soothing and it helped me reach this point! I want to share my happiness with him!”

“Okay, sir. I will find out and make arrangements,” said Ravi.

“Good!” said Marcello. “I’ll be there in three days!”


New Delhi


Marcello landed alone in New Delhi in the late evening and met Ravi outside the airport. “I’m ready to go, Ravi!”

“Sorry, sir. We can’t.”

“Huh? Why?” asked Marcello in shock.

“Please get into the car, sir. I’ll tell you.”

After driving some distance, Ravi started to speak. “Sir, unfortunately-“

“Unfortunately what?” asked Marcello.

“Unfortunately, the head monk passed away last year, sir. Also, the monastery has been shut down due to the unrest in the Jammu and Kashmir region. The monks have fled for safety."

“Oh no…” groaned Marcello.

“I’ve arranged some yoga sessions and some sightseeing for you, sir,” said Ravi. “Hopefully you’ll like them.”

But, destiny did not have Marcello attending his yoga session that day.

“What’s that, Ravi?” said Marcello, pointing.

Ravi looked at the direction Marcello was pointing. “That’s the New Delhi Sports Complex, sir,” he answered. “The national level tournaments are going on there.”

“Do they host basketball tournaments?”

“Yes, sir. All sports are hosted. Basketball, volleyball, cricket, et cetera.”

“Cricket?” Marcello raised his eyebrows. “Like the insect?”

“It’s another sport, sir,” said Ravi. “It’s literally the most popular sport in the country! Looks like nobody plays cricket in America!” he thought to himself.

“Ravi, I want to watch the tournament!” said Marcello suddenly and whimsically.

“Sir, they don’t play basketball like you expect, being from the NBA.”

“I don’t care. I want to watch the tournament!” said Marcello.

“Okay, sure, sir!” said Ravi.

Marcello knew that he was so passionate about basketball, he would be able to appreciate the game at any level. He also knew that the games were going to be fun, and he could relax a bit there.

What he did not know, however, was that this whim of his was going to change his future, his career as a GM, and the Houston Spacewalkers franchise, forever.


1. Under Contract: It basically means that the player has been signed to play for the team in the upcoming season as well. Players who aren’t under contract become free agents and can sign with another team.

2. Draft Lottery: An annual event to determine the order in which the teams will be selecting players in the actual draft that year.

Author’s Note.

Well, the Olympics are over! Congratulations to the USA men’s basketball team for their gold medal! And congratulations to all the Indian athletes. Win or lose, you all made your country proud! I hope to make my country proud too, someday!

The popularity poll will be up on my twitter account @sreejitsarmac on 10th August, 2021 at 12 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). You can also visit my profile on Honeyfeed and my twitter is linked there! Go cast your votes, guys!