0.2 seconds left on the clock, 101 to 100 down 1 point. I don’t want to take this shot. Or I do, I just don’t want to miss. I can feel the sweat running down my forehead, across my cheek and sliding through the crevice of my mouth. I can taste the salt. While I take my time for this life-changing shot, I look around at the crowd. Some of them are biting their nails with stomachs full of nervousness and minds full of wonder: Will this rookie make this shot?
I try to concentrate on the ball, like how my Dad taught me when I was a little kid. Ever since he died in that horrible car crash when I was seven years old, I always feel him watching me when I play basketball. It was our favorite thing to do together. I remember the steps he taught me when I was learning how to do free throws:
Bend down and pull back your arms
Make sure the lines on the ball are horizontal
Swing your body up and push!
I dribble the ball a couple times; spin it in my fingers. It’s a little slippery from my palms. I am ready to take this shot. If I miss it, my confidence will be lowered, and I’ll be scared of free throws for the rest of the season. In the second that I shoot the ball I bend down, pull back my arms, and all at the same time I shoot forward and fire. The ball has a great spin but maybe too much power.
As the ball glides towards the hoop I know that it was way too much power. I can tell that it won't go in, while the fans still have hope. Before it even touches the hoop I drop my head in terror of how my teammates and the fans will feel. My teammates will tell me it was just one game, that I’ll have it next time, but we’ll both know that they’re just comforting me. And the fans will be angry.
I feel like my body is shutting down. My confidence is floating away. I am sinking into the abyss of loneliness. Everyone depended on me and I let them down.
I already knew and I was right. The ball misses the hoop. As the buzzer goes off I don’t even want to look at the fans. I imagine how my teammates will hate me. When the other team starts to celebrate I feel like they are pushing me deeper into the abyss. I clench my fists into balls and punch the air in anger. All these years of work, wasted. I had my chance like a ball on the tip of my finger, but I lost it. My dream is shattered. I’ve let down my dad. If he were alive he would be disappointed. I’m scared that I will be the one guy that makes my team look bad.
I walk over to my side of the court to where my team is. A water boy hands me a green and orange Gatorade cup of water. I look down into it and see a reflection of myself. I feel like I don’t deserve it. I crumple the cup and my reflection gets smaller and smaller. The water spews out onto the court. I want to throw the cup onto the ground but people are watching.
I walk down the dark corridor with my teammates to the locker room. I take off my jersey, sit down, and lay it on my legs. My last name, and my number: the age my dad was when he died.