I’m having a ton of fun writing this. Please please give feedback, suggestions, anything. I’m open. I plan to release three books on Amazon and I’ll post on here about it.
OTHER EPISODES: If you enjoy this episode, get caught up with the others. Absolutely free: Operation Steal An Athlete (#1), About Delaney (#2), What the f-? (#3), Mami’s Here (#4), Little Church Girl & the Ho (#5).
***This is a mature series. 18+ only
Not making it to the NBA was devastating. For months, I tried to psych myself out, telling myself over and over that it would be no big deal, and I probably wouldn’t get in anyway. But on that actual night?
There were no words.
It’s like I had been slapped in the face and told, “Thank you, your services are no longer needed.” Hearing my boys’ names get called, from all over the Midwestern conference, guys I had played AAU ball with, attended summer camps with and played on the Playstation… to say it was unsettling is a serious understatement. Watching them cry, beam, hug their families, shake their fathers’ hands… I had been left behind.
From here going forward, there would always be a line between them, and me— the outliers who were good enough. And the rest of us, who were not.
The sensible part of me told myself to pull it together. It’s over. Time for the real world now. But the reality wasn’t lining up with the childhood dream still in my head.
Then there was Bree.
Word had gotten back to her that someone had seen my jeep, bearing the “KC” football sticker, on my first night with Haley. Leaving Haley’s apartment complex. Right here in Columbia, and not on some long drive.
“Go back to her, son,” my dad told me through his tubes when he and I discussed it. “She’s been with you all this time. She’ll never leave your side. No matter where you go, what you do.”
So I tried to do the right thing. Stayed with Bree during our last few weeks of school, and resolve it all. Even though I took to the couch. I continued with the engagement, tried to be the man she deserved. I left Haley alone and gave Bree the explanations and excuses I knew she needed to hear. That I felt “lesser than” in my life these last few months, and had acted out of character. Had never done anything else, that there was no one else, and that it would always be her.
But who was I lying to? Bree, or myself? In my heart, I hadn’t regretted a single moment with Haley. Those moments had lit up my life in an otherwise shitty hour. Haley’s unapologetic sexual appetite spit on the holiness of women like my mother, Bree, Bree’s mother. It excited something in me.
A week after I was left out of the NBA draft, Fallon came back out to see me.
“So, Delano,” she asked, leaning back in her seat as she treated me to lobster bisque and steak platter. “Have you considered our last discussion? Of you coming to Europe? Escaping your troubles here in America?”
I laughed. “The NBA tryouts are in August. Not sure I would have peace of mind if I didn’t give it one last shot.”
“I’m sorry, my friend, but I cannot give you that long. I would need an answer in the next ten days. Besides, why continue torturing yourself? When you could come to France or Germany and be a star. They would gobble you up there. You would not be a slave. But a king. If you’re willing to work hard and be focused, maybe… maybe we could get you a call-up from the NBA eventually.”
Sure, Fallon was telling me I might get called up to the NBA from the European leagues, but that was a long shot. It rarely happened. Would I have a better chance of making the NBA if I simply tried out?
Just as I asked myself this, the damnedest thing happened.
Fallon’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “You would have a better chance of entering the NBA with my help.” Her eyes penetrated mine, like she saw my soul, the questions that were in my mind. She could not have been reading my mind. Just no.
“I don’t know wh-what to say. That sounds like a really good deal, but…” I stammered.
“Say yes. Think of your family. The stability you could give them. Why keep allowing these teams here to insult you? Even if you did make an NBA team, how would it feel to always be second seed? Warm the bench and draw a check?” And then finally, “How is your love life?”
Wow. She had taken it personal. “How did you-?”
“-owners know everything. It’s my job. I wouldn’t dare invite you into my business without learning about you first. Whether you will embarrass me. How you handle yourself. If you do drugs. If you’re connected to any crazies.”
That left me wondering exactly how much did she know.
Finally, I answered, squirming in my seat. Why in the hell did this bitch make me feel so uncomfortable? “My love life is getting kind of… personal, isn’t it?”
“Before I bring you in, you and I would indeed get personal,” she replied. Her eyes did something weird again. “Seems you’re having a bit of a dilemma with your personal situation.”
I swallowed. “No more than any other man.”
“But maybe just enough that you were not focused to get into the NBA,” she pressed. Again, the sparks in her eyes picked apart some deep place in me. “Delano, let’s be honest with one another, if you are really serious about your success in basketball.”
“We might be done here,” I said, feeling myself get heated and setting down my fork. I didn’t care how much money she had, or what team she owned, she wasn’t entitled to poke into my personal affairs, or to judge me.
Unflinching, she replied, “Or maybe we’re just beginning. Which is what you may need.”
For some reason, I did not get up to walk out. Something seemed to be… keeping me here. My curiosity, maybe? I sat back, pushing the plate aside, no longer interested in her food or extravagance. “I’m listening.”
“What if I told you I could keep your father alive?”
“Nobody can stop death.”
“I can.” Her eyes flared, gazing back at me as if she knew her chess-like move cornered me in checkmate.
“How?” I had to hear the rest of this.
“Forgive me for the way this will sound, Delano, but I have access to the kind of resources you unfortunately do not. Of course, I won’t be so foolish as to promise anything. But your father is more likely to survive with my… resources… than without.”
Again, her irises seemed to burn like flames, and I could have sworn I felt some force searching my insides. I don’t believe in ghosts and shit. So we’re not even going there, but those eyes literally pulled me into a whole other place. Dark, shadowy halls and flickering candles, with soft velvet, made me feel so goddamn exquisite. I forced my head back to the present. Once my eyes returned to our surroundings in the restaurant, I felt dumped into a bucket of ice water.
“This is crazy!” I said, trying to laugh off this sudden rush of coldness creeping through my veins. Trying to steady my thoughts straight, I insisted, “Why me? Why are you pursuing me so hard? How about all those dudes who went first round in the draft? Why not them? Why keep flying out here to Missouri for somebody you call ‘second-seed’? And offering to keep my father alive at that!” It was my turn to press.
“Delano, let’s set aside our egos. You’re wonderful. You’re smart. For the most part disciplined, though you let your emotions derail you at times. And you’re hungry. I prefer underdogs. A good comeback story is always the best kind. Giving someone a second chance who never really had their first.”
What fool would turn this down? But it sounded too good to be true. Right?
I mean, where was this coming from? She had overlooked every other professional basketball reject in the country? For me? Why?
Once more, I fought like hell not to look into those eyes. Not to get sucked into them again. Even as I did, a cold draft started to crawl underneath my skin.
I declined. Either I was going to the NBA, or it was over. And I wasn’t going to let some spoiled white girl interrogate me and dictate my life just because she held purse strings. I refused to be anybody’s house boy.
I’d go and try to fix things with Bree, let her know how sorry I was.