The doors of the Orthopedic Department of George Washington Memorial Hospital, Washington D.C, burst open as two nurses pushed in a patient with an awkwardly bent, swollen, leg. He was continuously groaning in pain throughout his trip from Baltimore to D.C. He was here for the best treatment that was available in the vicinity, and based on what the nurses had seen, he would need just that. The hospital had a history of helping athletes heal through sports injuries, and the Houston Spacewalkers organization was counting on that.
Lokesh Kumar’s vision was a blur. He just couldn’t even feel his leg anymore as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He felt himself pushed into the orthopedic room as the two nurses gently set him on the bed.
Suddenly, his swollen knee started to throb so badly that Lokesh felt his knee was being slowly crushed by a hydraulic press. He screamed out in pain, startling the two nurses.
“AAAAAAAARGHH!” he yelled.
The pain was almost beyond imagination. Two nurses and a doctor rushed in.
“Make it stop!” he howled. ‘MAKE IT STOP!!”
The nurse pulled out a sedative and administered it on Lokesh. He felt the world becoming blurry again as he slowly drifted off to sleep.
Nurse Elizabeth Wilson was in tears. She was a native Houstonian (1), and a Spacewalkers fan. She’d seen defeat after defeat. Just when it seemed like there was hope, their franchise player now lay in front of her, passed out from sedatives.
She wept as she held his hand.
“On my pride as a medical professional, I’ll heal you and patch you up. In return, please, please, end the curse!”
Lokesh didn’t respond.
Steven Walker rushed into the hospital. “I’d like to see Dr. Watson! I need to know the injury report of one of my players! His last name is Kumar and first name is Lokesh!”
“Calm down, sir,” said the receptionist. “Sir down. Dr. Watson and Nurse Wilson will be with you soon!”
Steven couldn’t calm down.
The one who was down wasn’t any other guy.
It was his franchise superstar.
And his career could be over the minute it had begun.
“Why wasn’t it me?” he sobbed. “Lord Jesus, please take me, but heal my player. He has a future!”
Doctor David Watson entered the room and consoled Steven.
“Calm down, coach. And listen to me. I have to explain his reports to you!”
Steven lifted up his head.
“Mister Lokesh Kumar,” began Dr. Watson. “Has hyperextended his left knee!”
“What does that mean?” asked Kobayashi Ichikawa.
Steven Walker took a deep breath. “His left knee bent a bit too much…”
“Oh, so he’s okay!” exclaimed Keon Jordan Jr.
“His knee bent in the wrong direction. It bent backwards!”
A dark cloud of gloom descended over the team and enveloped them in a dreadful, chilling sense of realization about what had just happened.
“THAT DIRTY CHEATER DEANDRE WASHINGTON!” roared Odai Beckham Jr angrily. “HE DID THAT ON PURPOSE! I’M GOING TO TAKE HIM DOWN!”
“No, that won’t happen,” said Danny Reynolds.
“I’M COMING WITH YOU, ODAI!” bellowed Keon, his temples almost bursting in rage. “LET’S MAKE HIM PAY!”
“Listen,” said Dan. “No fighting anyone.”
“We’ve fought enough!”
“Lokesh wouldn’t want you fighting anyone,” said Steven Walker. “He’d not approve of it.”
The angry men calmed down. They knew. He wouldn’t approve of it, ever.
Aftermath of the Baltimore Brawl
Kobayashi Ichikawa was fined 30,000 Dollars for fighting another player and throwing the ball at him. He was also handed a two month suspension from all games
Danny Reynolds was slapped with a 10,000 Dollars fine for throwing a beer can at a fan. He was handed a two week suspension.
Odai Beckham Jr was handed a 43,000 Dollars fine for attacking three fans and knocking them out. He was also handed a two month suspension.
Keon Jordan Jr was the worst-hit. He was punished with a 46,000 Dollars fine and a three month suspension for violently attacking another player twice and shoving referees, security, and the police out of his way. He also had to pay their medical bills.
As for the Baltimore Barrage…
The Houston Spacewalkers vowed revenge.
Every member of Team Baltimore had gotten away scot-free. No fines. No suspension.
It was the worst officiating job in NBA history.
Lokesh hobbled sadly into his physiotherapy session. He would be walking with the support of grills and crutches and re-learning the feeling of walking. This was a man who had leapt into the air when he was 5 feet 4 inches tall and dunked the basketball. He was now trying to learn the art of walking without support.
He was absolutely shaken-up and devastated.
“I let my team down, when they needed me the most!”
“I couldn’t make one shot!”
“I lost my team the game!”
Then, he started having an even worse thought.
“Maybe my career is over! I’ll never play again!”
Then he starting reminiscing. But reminiscing all the wrong things.
“I was a disappointment to my parents!”
“I couldn’t make even a decent grade!”
“I was terrible at the draft combine!”
“My debut game was a disaster!”
“Josh Okongo beat the life out of me!”
Then, he started thinking about the worst things that had happened.
“The girl I loved got married to another guy. And I was halfway around the world. Too late to stop it. Too helpless to try.”
“I couldn’t even transform myself into a man in time to get the woman I loved!”
“I failed my team!”
“We didn’t make the playoffs!”
“They probably hate me!”
“I’m a failure!”
With these terrible, misguided thoughts born out of his poor mental state, Lokesh gradually slipped into depression. He had to interest left to live, or to play basketball.
“I’m probably not fit for this game,” he thought. “I’ll never play again!”
After two months of intense physiotherapy and rehabilitation, Lokesh finally left the United States and went back to India. He was told to follow up with a specialist doctor in Mumbai and get through his rehab.
He now stayed with his friend, Karan Singh, who attended IIT Bombay, which was in Mumbai. Karan couldn’t believe how depressed his friend was. This man was the light of his life. He was his idol and mentor. He was always so cheerful, optimistic, and excited. Now, he was a wreck, spewing suicidal thoughts.
“Get help, man!” said Karan to Lokesh.
Most importantly, Karan couldn’t believe that Lokesh planned to quit basketball and retire.
“You’re 21!” he yelled.
Lokesh ignored him. His only goal was to recover from his injury fully, and then…he didn’t know. Beg on the roads, maybe.
A car would take Lokesh to the physiotherapist’s office every day and drive him back. As time progressed, Lokesh started recovering nicely from his injury.
“So you can return!” said Karan. “Go win that championship!”
“No, man,” said Lokesh sadly.
After the disaster at Baltimore, he’d never, even, spoken to his teammates or coacher ever again.
He was too humiliated and ashamed to speak with them.
One day, he went back to his therapist. It was his last day, and his therapist had warned him not to jump or run too much. He told him to wait for a few months before resuming basketball.
As he was driving back, the car passed a family court in Bandra East, Mumbai. This was a court to deal with family issues.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a tall woman sitting on a bench.
Standing around her were a bunch of people who Lokesh assumed were her relatives. They seemed to be shouting at her. Abusing her. Insulting her. Berating her.
Lokesh rolled down his car windows and stared in total shock.
He would recognize that face from even a mile away.
1. Houstonian: A person from Houston, Texas.