I make my way to the free throw line. This wasn’t supposed to happen. My high school basketball team, the Foxes, was tied with our opponent. There were 2.1 seconds left on the clock.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. I shouldn’t be the one at the free throw line. Coach had drawn up the play in the huddle during the last time out. The play called for Ricky, our all star shooting guard, to get the ball in the corner. But somehow the ball was tipped around and I ended up with it. I threw up a mid-range jumper, knowing the clock was running out, and I was fouled in the process.
I wipe my sweaty palms on my basketball shorts as I step up to the line. I can’t feel anything but nerves as the referee says “relax on the first one guys’’ and passes me the ball. I almost drop it as the ball bounces up to me. I try to start my normal routine at the line, but I can’t even think straight. I panic. Is it two dribbles? Three? I take three. Not sure if that is what I usually do. As I look up from the dribbles and to the basketball hoop, just now do I realize the crowd for our cross-town rivals is going nuts.
I freeze. The noise reaches a deafening roar and I take an unconscious step back.
I am not supposed to be here. This is not me. This is Ricky. I can’t do this. Oh, the pressure! What kind of free throw shooter am I? What, 70% maybe? And that is in practice, in a controlled, not pressured, non-screaming fans environment. Sure, I am good at basketball, and I enjoy it and everything, but this is not what I signed up for. I didn’t want to be the star. I don’t have dreams of hitting the game winner, like Ricky has done for us before. That’s why Coach called the play he did.
I realize everyone is staring at me and, taking a step forward, I shoot. The shot just feels wrong. Form is awful and the shot hits the backboard and bounces off the right side of the rim.
I hear groans and I hear cheers, a lot of cheers. Well, at least that is over with. I knew this wasn’t supposed to be me. But then the referee has the ball again.
Oh, crap! Two shots, genius.
I step back from the line and let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Ricky comes up behind me from his position…