The blue sky surrounded the shining sun, which was beating down on our sweaty arms and heads as we played three on three basketball on the Lincoln Elementary School blacktop. The score was 34-36 and we(me, Parth, and his younger brother) were playing three rising sixth graders.
The game was proceeding into the last 45 seconds of the fourth five minute quarter. The fifth graders had just scored off a fast break due to an off balance crossover by me to break the tie, and we were more than slightly tense. We did not want a repeat of the 2016 NBA finals Game 7, so that play we tried our hardest to pull off a pick and roll.
“Parth, give me a screen!” He rushed towards me and blocked off the two defenders attempting to double team me when I was at the wing, alone. I gratefully rolled toward the basket only to have the opposing center player dutifully block me off. I forgot that Parth’s brother existed and tried to fade away from the elbow of the key. The center, then a couple of inches taller than me smirked, and effortlessly swatted the ball out of the air and into his teammate’s hands like it was a mosquito bothering him.
I felt crushed. Now I remember that I could have passed to Parth’s brother at the wing. Some point guard I am, taking fadeaways over people two inches taller than me when there’s an open teammate who happens to be a three point sniper right behind me, I thought. My teammates pretended not to notice my faux pas as we hurried to the other goal to stop their second straight fastbreak. The center player received and executed a neat alley oop layup in my face.
In our neighborhood,I was known as the best defender around, and now I was getting pummeled by some kids. It was safe to say that I was more than humiliated. We were down by four points with the clock showing but thirty seconds to go. So far these few plays, all I had done was screwed up. I had let a kid score over me, I had hogged the ball, and most importantly, I had been shot blocked. As Parth, our center, took it out, I caught the pass and dribbled the ball dolefully to the other half of the court.
“DUDE! HUSTLE!” came a cry from somewhere. Astonished, I look around and found Parth’s brother motioning for me to drive to the basket. “WE HAVE 18 SECONDS LEFT!” I snapped out of my brooding, drove the ball into the key, and, without thinking, lobbed a pass to our forward as he slid in behind the wing, his hands poised, ready to take a three pointer. Without hesitation he straightened his arms and flicked the ball toward the basket. It rolled across the sky in a wide arc and we all stared up at it until it bounced around inside the rim and slid in.
The shooter held the follow through for a second more, then congratulated me on my assist. The rising sixth graders took in the ball quickly to secure their one point lead. I found myself in front of their guard as he was trying to find an open teammate, and by an incredible stroke of luck, I extended my left arm and managed to perform a steal. I brought the ball back to triple-threat by dribbling it against the ground a couple times and quickly shuffled in front of the kid who now found himself trying to guard me.
The spark of hope in me that we would somehow win was fading as the clock dwindled to nine seconds. We are down by one, and I am not known as the most clutch player ever, but anyway… I thought. I pulled up for a jump shot from inside the arc… … and ended up tripping on my shoelaces. How they got untied is another story. The ball crashed to the ground and rolled out of bounds. While I face-palmed, the kid who I stole the ball from on our fastbreak sarcastically clapped. The clock stopped with six seconds left.
Dejectedly, I sulked as they prepared to inbound it. Then, I realized they were inbounding it. I leaped between their forward and their guard just as the forward released the ball. I grabbed it and passed to Parth and sprinted to the left post and received a pass from him. Time seemed to slow down.
I bent my legs and pulled my arms back, and exploded into a perfect step back jump shot with two seconds left. The opposing center leaped towards me and extended his long, sweaty, arm toward me, but, I had released the shot a moment earlier and he ended up slapping my follow through hand. He crashed to the ground, as my game-winning shot banked its way in. I looked around, and smiled, clapped my hands together once, and, quoting Han Solo, I panted, “Sometimes, I amaze even myself.” One of the kids on the other team muttered something about “noobs get all the luck.” Personally, I was happy to ignore that as they took it out once again and missed the following full court.