Clutch

   

Logline

When a graphic designer of a prestigious basketball team finds out there's open enrollment he gets the surprise of his life when he's picked to play in the fourth quarter.

 

Short Story

It’s the 2013-2014 NBA Season; LeBron James and the Miami Heat are going for their third straight finals and back-to-back championships. I, on the other hand, am working for the digital signage department in the American Airlines Arena. We are a team of four, the Director Kristin, a Producer Omar, animator Steve and myself as Senior Producer. We are also champions. Champions of IDEA awards for best digital displays in all arenas and stadiums. We take pride in our jobs, so much so we stay for every game and watch our work up on the jumbotron and ribbons in the bowl along with the 20,000 fans that attend.

One game in particular I notice an old guy in a pink shirt that says, “sign up here to be an NBA player”. It looks like a gag. He’s standing there in the corner of the 300 section with a clipboard. No one bothers to talk to him. I tell Omar let’s go see what this is all about. We go over and the old man tells us to write our names down on the clipboard and they will be in touch with us.

A couple of days go by and we hear nothing. But we have a big game to get ready for. As usual we’re scrambling. All the content gets in the system and the open plays great. Everyone’s phone is recording it for YouTube. The lights go back up and everyone sits. In the corner of where we are sitting is the same old guy with his clipboard and pink shirt. I get Omar’s attention with my stare and nod to the guy. We get up as tip off begins. People get pissed but we need to see if we made the cut. We get to the old guy and he remembers us. He shows us the clipboard. It shows what teams we’ve been selected to play with. Omar is selected by the Los Angeles Lakers and I, by the Boston Celtics. He gives us each an envelope. We head back to our seats. At first we’re quiet. We can’t believe what had just happened. Well, we don’t know if it’s true or not.

The next day we call the number that’s located on a card in the envelope that the old guy handed us. It’s real! We go into the office and quit that same day. I remember the look on Kristin’s face. But it’s something we had to do just to see how surreal it was going to be. In the envelope was my plane ticket to Boston.

I arrive in Boston the next day. Lucky for me it’s game day and I don’t have anytime to figure out what’s really happening. I walk along through the back halls of the Garden. Everyone stares at me but no one questions why a five foot eight Indian looking man is walking around unattended and obviously lost. I reach an office and hand a man in the room the card from the envelope. He escorts me to the locker room. The room is empty. I guess all the players are already geared up. I see my last name on a jersey with the number eight. There are shorts, socks, and high tops. The shoes are a couple inches off the ground. I get dressed and put them on. I reach about six foot in uniform. I feel like a player. This is crazy.

I walk out on the court. The place is packed. The players are front and center. I take a seat on the bench. We’re playing the Lakers. I look over to the opposing bench and see Omar in the purple legendary uniform. The first quarter goes by and then the second. I have no clue why there are so many fresh faces on the team. Most of the faces do not look like athletes. The third quarter passes. Starting the fourth all the major players take a seat. Coach puts in all the newbies. We mimic the pros by saying hello to the opposing team. I walk up to Omar. He’s wearing number thirty-two. I can’t believe it. He’s decked out with high-tops and shin high socks. He has the biggest smile on his face. The ref picks the tallest guy on each team and places them center court. He tells all of us to stand on the sides of our team. He throws the ball up in the air. I guess it’s game time. I have a couple of good plays and make a couple of points. Three, two, one, buzzer, game over. I look at the pros sitting bench side. They look pissed. And so do the fans. I head back to the locker room. Again, not sure what to expect. I change back into my clothes and sit with the non-professional athletes. Coach calls us in his office one at a time. I enter. Take a seat. He talks about the history of basketball, Celtic pride and the game we just played. He goes on to tell me they will be bringing me back because of the little skill I shown on the court.

Sad for Omar he doesn’t play again. He gets sent home. He goes back to the HEAT as an employee. I go on the road with the team. I continue to play fourth quarter basketball and make plays and points. Next thing I know is the next game Coach puts me in, in the third quarter. This is a little scary. The players are like pillars to me. They all don’t like the fact a non-professional is playing in their game, including my teammates. I’m not going to lie I am scared. We’re playing the Brooklyn Nets in good ole Brooklyn. We start to play. I do my best to be fast and run around players. That doesn’t work too well. My own teammates ignore me. All of a sudden I’m up against Kevin Garnett. If you don’t know Kevin Garnett he’s six feet eleven inches tall and is ruthless. And the Celtics had just traded him. So he’s been playing a little angry. He has the ball and I’m doing my best to guard him. He pivots side to side and passes the ball next thing I know he clubs me in the face. I go down. My teammates rush him. The Celtics and Nets are about to throw down. The refs are trying to stop them. It takes a good couple of minutes before I can get up. When I do the ref walks me to the free throw line. I look around and everyone is up on their feet. My teammates stand to the sides and behind me. Garnett is at the bench. I’m not sure why he did what he did but man he’s a dick. The ref tosses me the ball. I guess I’m about to shoot some free throws. I bounce the ball a couple of times; take a deep breath and shoot. The players all watch the ball as it bounces off the rim then the glass then straight down the net. The crowd goes wild. My teammates all approach me and slap my hand. Garnett is emotionless. Next stop Miami.

I enter the P1 garage at the American Airlines Arena. As usual I am alone entering the building. As a former employee, I remember walking through the event level saying hi to all the ushers. This time is different; they look at me and smile. Now on the court, I look around to see a filled arena and awesome graphics on the LED ribbons that was once mine. Coach yells my name and says, get ready your starting. The guys have no response. But I know that’s not a bad thing. I try to hide my excitement. I tear away my pants and unzip my green warm up jacket.

The lights go black. The intro plays. As usual it’s amazing. It gets everyone on their feet. No one does it like Miami. It’s good to be home. House lights come back up. Wade is running around the court getting fans hyped. LeBron throws powder in the air. The guys say hi to one another. All continue to ignore me. That’s fine. I’m here to do my best and play. Tip off time. Jump ball. Bosh tips it to one of the Heat players. I run with the guys. The ball goes back and fourth down the court. The only way I get the ball is by rebound, not from a player shooting at the rim but from it slipping out of another player’s hands. I go around some players and try to shoot a lay up. LeBron comes out of nowhere and blocks my shot just as it leaves my fingertips. Magically I get the ball two more times and both times when I try to shoot LeBron blocks it. Coach calls me to the bench. For the next two quarters I watch the game from the sidelines.

Fourth quarters comes and I go back onto the court. I make a couple of good plays and am lucky enough to shoot and make a couple of points. The only reason for this is because LeBron is watching the game from the bench. The game is neck and neck. Coach Erik Spoelstra sends LeBron back in. Oh great. He starts up and down the court making three’s and dunking. Whatever. I see him coming down the stretch. He drives down the middle and shoots a floater. I run as fast as I can jump onto one of the players and jump off into the air. My hand reaches the ball and I push it away from the rim. LeBron cannot believe what had just happened. And neither can the rest of the arena.

After the game, I head to the visitor locker rooms and knock on Coach’s door. Come in, Coach says. I enter. Hell of a game kid, hell of a game. I say Thanks. He then throws a white envelope on the desk. What’s this? He says, this is it kid, you’re already home so we figure you can just stay and go back to work. I pick up the envelope. He continues, that’s for everything you had accomplished. I really wasn’t expecting anything, I said. Yes, but like I said hell of a game kid, Coach continued.

Before I step out I ask Coach what’s the reason for the non-pros to play in the NBA? He says, the league didn’t have enough money to pay the players so they worked out a deal where they just played three quarters. And the fourth was going to be given to the fans. That didn’t really matter to me. What was most appreciated was I was able to play in the NBA for half a season.

 

*NOTE: I do not own the rights to the above image. It is clearly a depiction representing the story.

© Clint Horvath 2018. All Rights Reserved.