Oh, hey Katie. Sorry I am late for our date, but I was getting shots up and I went to a psychic place, you know? I was going the Dirk Fadeaway, where your move your foot and kick your log, totally unblockable. The defenders of the world appeared to me, too impossibly to be real, too real to be a dream, and I drilled it over all of them. Tony Allen, boom, drilled it. Dennis Rodman, drilled it. Bruce Bowen bit on my fake, fweet fweet, two free throws, right there on the blacktops of Woodruff Park in Olympia, WA.
Then he appeared, in a cloud of smoke. The legend in green, goatee and all, number six in your programs, number one in the fight against offense: Bill Russell. I catch the ball at the elbow. He thinks I am going to my signature move, the Dirk Fadeaway, but I drive to the hoop. He’s too fast, too smart, too improvisational. He blocks me into the grass. I go to retrieve it, broken and beaten. I know when I turn around, he will be gone forever. I had my chance against the king and I lost.
But he is still there. I will never know why, Katie. I don’t know what Russell saw in me that led him to give me another chance. Maybe he just wanted to take my dignity away completely, break my spirit until I never took a ball onto a court to idly toss up practice shots ever again. Abandon the honorable craft of part doodling. Or maybe he saw that there was a deeper strength in me. That if I got another chance, I would do what needed to be done.
I catch the ball on the block. This is the moment of truth. He’s behind be, all 6 feet, nine inches, arms that once stretched across the whole of rural Louisiana, the arms that caught 21,620 NBA rebounds, arms in the air, ready to block. His mind produced a wave of intelligence so thick and profound I could feel it in my bones. I wasn’t going to trick this man. I had to just go to it. The Dirk Fadeaway. If I got blocked, I was to be a broken man, if I didn’t I was the hero of the day, the greatest basketball player in the history of Woodruff Park, maybe in all of West Olympia. I turn. I fade. I shoot. Backboard. Inside tip of the rim. Net.
Bill turned to me and smiled. “Thank you. Because of you, I will now be free.” Then he disappeared, probably off to heaven to dominate Wilt Chamberlain.
“...sweetie, you know Bill Russell isn’t dead yet, right?”
“Excuse me, sir, you smell terrible and we can’t let you wear basketball shorts in this restaurant.”