The 24-Hour Shot Clock
The gymnasium was awash in silence as Coach sprang off the bench and motioned for a timeout with twelve seconds left. The opposing team broke into whoops and sloppy chest bumps. Coach's ragged unit dragged their feet to the bench with heads bowed and brows furrowed. Their ten-point lead had been eviscerated in a matter of minutes, so they trailed by the slenderest but most precarious of margins. Coach looked to his clipboard, but it mocked him with its blankness. "If things don't work out, just throw bombs" was the command he often fell back on. He gave dramatic speeches at the beginning of games before plopping down onto the bench to mull over other things. In his fine grey suit, with his clean-shaven face cupped in supple hands, he traveled to other places. A benchwarmer tethered him to reality, keeping him informed of each game's proceedings.
During the course of a season he had hardly paid attention to, his squad morphed into a Cinderella outfit. All of a sudden, the rafters became swollen with students, staff and parents, many of them in school gear that still smelt like department stores. The championship game was the first to grab Coach's attention by the scruff of his neck. The problem though was that as a recently divorced high school History teacher, he had not thought about basketball enough to muster ideas to reverse the game's mutinous momentum. The boys flirted with learning the cruel reality of how swiftly happiness can flea.
Coach recited a couple of lines about heart and hustle. If a Hollywood story were to be made about his underdog team, the transcript would need to be re-written in order to scrub away all of the clichés. Coach knew that there was only one person he could trust amidst the surrounding puddle of dread infested gawkers. He clapped John, his captain, on the shoulder and breathed, "I want a bomb now." The boys nodded sheepishly, as John gave them a wink that inspired no one but him. He was on the brink of a scene that every boy prepares for in gyms, parks and driveways. He possessed a portfolio of mock game winners, all made while friends counted down from ten to zero and mimicked the sound of a buzzer. This was a high school destiny more fulfilling than becoming prom king.
Almost everyone on the team accepted that, each game, fate hinged on the flick of Johnny Bomb's wrist. He looked like he was made for catching waves in California instead of traipsing up and down the court with such a bemused flock. Still, with an ability to bench press more than double what any of his teammates could, long blond hair that sashayed around his alice band as he drove to the rim and the latest pair of Lebrons strapped to his feet, he made for a convincing hero. He was the gunslinger that dared to shoot from any distance and any angle at any time. His desire to earn his moniker was insatiable, but whether he scored or not, he flashed his dimples, knowing that he would be back at it moments later. There was only one person that rejected Johnny Bomb as deity. He was the team's point guard Chinedu, and he teetered on the edge of taking matters into his own diminutive hands.
The would-be-renegade known Chinedu trudged back onto the court, swimming in both thought and uniform. He spotted the other players on the court at least a couple of inches, and felt further compressed by the heftiness of the chip on his shoulder. He knew that he would receive the inbounds pass and be expected to charge into a forest of trees. He would need to draw attention in order to safely swing the ball out to Johnny for one of his patented bombs. The stat tracker, a basketball enthusiast utterly incapable of catching a ball or a tan would grant him the assist. Unlike the Oscar's though, the best supporting character would not receive his just due. Chinedu grimaced at the sight of Johnny who, with confidence made out of Teflon, flashed those dimples. The other team had figured out their handful of plays, denying them at every twist and turn, and Johnny had gone ice cold, building a house made out of bricked shots. No matter. Coach still grunted "Bombs" almost every time down the court, even as their opponents chipped away at their lead like a sculptor rushing to make a deadline. Coach seemed to think that the word could have the same effect as saying "Shazaam".