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I always liked basketball and even made a game-winner myself, so I imagined what it would feel like and put me in Pete's shoes.
“Swoosh,” the final bucket of game 6 against the Boston Celtics gains us a spot in the game of glory, game 7 of the finals. The roar of the crowd could be heard from miles away.
“Let's Go,” I yelled in excitement at Don. I ran up to him and gave him a big hug. We stayed alive again for the 2nd game in a row. After they jumped to a 3 game to 1 game lead against us, we finally started to play the same game that got us into the finals in the first place. We won game 5 118-107, and today the scoreboard read 124 Jazz - 116 Celtics. We were finally going back to the finals after the 23-year drought without a championship appearance. “We have 2 days before we head back to Boston for game 7,” I tell Edwin. He scored 22 points on 17 shot attempts, with 9 buckets and 7 assists. “Bro, you good?” I asked after he didn’t answer for a couple seconds. “You should keep your head high man, we're heading to game 7 and you played great.” I continued.
Finally, he spoke up, “Yeah, I know I just thought I’d be back home by now, my daughter’s turning 7 in 4 days. I promised I’d be there.”
“Don’t worry, the game is in 2 days, you’ll get back on time,” I replied. With that said, I jogged to the locker room to rejoin my team.
When I got into the locker room, coach immediately called out, “Everyone, I would like your attention.” In a few seconds, everyone quieted down and gathered around. “Now with your attention, I wanted to let you know that the fight isn’t yet over,” he continued. “We still have to go beat the Celtics at their home court to gain the NBA championship. Don’t do anything that will put you out of commission for the game. Tonight was a big victory, but I had to make sure we kept our head in the game for game 7. Now, with that said, let's go get another win tomorrow.”
The next day my alarm clock went off at 9:00 am to get fully packed to head to Boston for the last game of the series. After I got packed I left the house at 9:45 to get to the airport at 10:30. By the time I got there, almost my whole team was already there. “You ready?” I asked Don.
“Yeah, I can’t wait to finally get there and win this thing,” he replied.
“Yeah, let's do it,” I said back.
“Everyone,” coach said, “It’s time to get in and get out, our whole team is here. Let's go.” Finally, with that, we left good old Salt Lake and headed for Boston. As soon as the plane lurched forward I was already ready to start the game. As I lay back in my seat I think to myself about what I will do if we do win. I really wanted to see my family, but this could be the only championship win that I could ever have in my whole entire life. So I had to make the most of it, and that includes a proper celebration with my team. If we lose, then I can go home to my family and be with them for the time off that I will get.
“Hey what’s on your mind?” Terry asked me.
“I was just thinking about my family, I haven’t gotten to spend any quality time with them in so long, I really just want to get back to them,” I replied.
“Don’t worry, they will be cheering you on from home, just wait, you’ll see them soon,” he said.
“Yeah, I know,” I said. That was the last of our conversation because the drowsiness took over me and I took a nap in the chair.
“Hey, Pete, wake up. We’re here, get your bags we gotta get out,” someone said into my ear. As the blurriness in my eyes faded, I saw Frank standing over me.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m up,” I replied quietly, as I got up, out of my chair, and reached to the ceiling to grab my suitcase. “Where is everyone?” I asked.
“They’re all already off. They didn’t see you I guess,” he said back. Yeah, I guess so, I thought. When I got out of the plane I felt the 85-degree weather hit my face. It reminded me of home. I walked over to the bus that would take us to our hotel.
Once we got there I went to the diner and got a salad. After I finished eating I immediately went up to my room to get some good rest for the big game tomorrow. By that time it was 7:30 and I was ready to sleep in tomorrow.
I thought I was going to sleep the next day, but that wasn’t in at all. I ended up waking up at 7:30. I woke up and went down to the front desk. There was nobody there except me so I decided to go to the hotel gym. My coach said that it wasn’t smart to work our muscles too much so I did a light jog and light weights and went back to my room. I lay back down and I realized how much that tired me. I put my head on the pillow and my eyes got too heavy to keep open and I fell asleep.
This time I woke up at the sound of my phone ringing. “Doo, doooo, doooooo,doooooo,” it repeated. I grabbed my phone and saw the name. I saw it was coach. “Hello?” I asked.
“Where have you been?” he asked.
“I’m in my room,” I replied.
“I told you to get down here at 11:45,” he said back. I looked at the top of my screen and saw that it was 11:50. “We’ve been sitting here waiting for you to get out to this bus”
“Oh my god, coach I’m so sorry,” I said nervously. “I’ll get down there immediately, the time must’ve gotten away from me, see you in a sec.” I hung up and got all my stuff and ran out to the bus. My whole team was waiting for me just like coach said. “Well come on, get in already,” he said. I rushed onto the bus and almost my whole team gave me bad looks. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” I murmured as I walked past my team to take my seat.
The bus ride was 30 minutes long, but after the long ride, we finally arrived. On the top of the stadium, it said “TD Garden.” I quietly snuck off the bus. I went straight into the locker room to get ready.
After I finished getting ready, I didn’t see any of my teammates there. I exited the locker room, straight onto the court. The stadium was already about 1/10 full. My whole team was already warming up with their navy blue warm-ups. On the other side of the court, I saw the leading scorer in the league, with 30.6 points per game, Patrick Sponge. If I am lucky enough to start today after the bus accident earlier, then I would be guarding him.
“Everyone in,” coach yelled to everyone. When everyone was in he said quieter, “we got to decide our gameplan.”
After 1 hour of watching and analyzing the film, he brought us back on the court to start warm-ups. He told us to do corner shooting. We set up in our lines and started to shoot around. As I glanced over, I saw coach trying not to show it, but he was looking at our shooting as if he wasn’t sure about something, but I didn’t know what.
“Hey everyone, come in,” he said. “It’s time for line-ups. Don, your running point. Make sure you're passing the ball quickly and keep your eyes up. Terry, you’re at the five, just stay big and try to get as many rebounds as possible. Trea, you’re the 4, try to stay big and make sure you drop to help with Terry. Frank, you’ll start your first game here in the finals. Your last game proved to me you deserved it, go get him. I’ll have to watch you guys warm up to decide the 2. So everyone, stay sharp. Go start your normal warm-up routine and meet me back here 5 minutes before game time,” he finally ended.
“Yes coach,” we all said in unison. We all jogged off to start our warm-ups.
After about 30 minutes I overheard the referee saying, “The game starts in five.”
“Come on, the game starts in five minutes, coach wants us back,” I repeated to the team. Everyone jogged to coach, and coach looked down at his sheets to prepare to tell us. After about 3 minutes of game talk and tactics to get around the defense, the ref finally came over and said “Players and coaches got to come onto the court, they’re doing their introductions.” As he finished saying that the stadium went black and started announcing names on the other team. The crowd roared with excitement. But, when it was our turn, the crowd went wild with boo’s, and the stadium lit back up. After that was over, coach yelled to us, “Starters, stay on, everyone else get over here.” I started to hurry to the bench when I heard Frank yell, “Coach who’s the 2.”
“Oh, that's right, Pete stay ready, but you won't be starting today, Braden, get out there.”
“Yes, coach,” I said, a bit disappointed. And at the same moment I was saying that Braden said, “Yes, coach, I won’t disappoint.” I swear he sounded an octave higher. After waiting 4 minutes, the game finally started. I had to sit and watch through 7 minutes of Braden getting absolutely crushed by Patrick. He already had 14 points! Coach looked down at the bench with 5 minutes left in the half and said to nobody in particular, “Pete, Dan, and Lenny, come down here.” Dan and Lenny weren't looking at coach so I repeated, “Pete, Lenny, we’re going in.” They all immediately took off their warm-ups and made their way down the chairs, to coach. “Take out Trea, Braden, and Terry. They’re having a rough one tonight,” coach said. I made my way to half court and took a knee. As I was waiting to come in, I didn’t realize how much we were down. The game was already looking like a blowout. The scoreboard read, BOS - 19, UTA - 9. I took out Braden and got locked in the game. The next five minutes went by in an instant. Only afterward did I realize that I scored 16 points off of 2 threes, 2 mid-range, and three powerful dunks. Also, I held Mr. Sponge to 0 points! I started the next quarter too and didn’t come out. Although this quarter I wasn’t as dominant, I still scored another 10 points, but this time Patrick scored 6 points over me. At halftime the score was 56-47, they were winning. Coach called all of us into the locker room at halftime. “Everyone, you can’t be playing much better than you are right now,” he said. “Just keep doing what you are doing and you should be able to pull away with this game. I need to apologize and thank Mr. Pete Wedly. He is the main reason we have kept the game this close all of this game.” I was honored, but some part of me wanted to yell at him for not starting me. I felt like we could be winning this game right now if he just would have started me. I got a few pats on the backs from people near me too.
“Everyone stretch what you need, this is going to be an interesting rest of the game,” he finished. With that everyone stretched what they needed and started to head out the court. This time I started and when Terry first passed the ball to Don to start the half I knew I was ready. As the quarter started I realized how tight up they were on me and I couldn’t get open to find the ball in my hands. After about 2 minutes into the half without touching the ball, I finally got open enough to receive a pass. I caught it just fine and did a jab step and ran the other way, right by him. I saw the lane open for the dunk and went for it. And out of nowhere, their biggest guy 2 hand shoved me mid-jump. I tried to land right, but I landed awkwardly on my left ankle and twisted it. The referee blew his whistle and ejected the guy for the game. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. The trainers came over to me and checked me out. After they finished, they helped me to my feet and walked me onto the bench.
“Will I be able to play,” I asked.
“We don’t know yet,” he replied. “If you feel like you are good to play then you are welcome to try, but it might get worse.”
“Alright, thank you, I am okay. I truly am,” I said reassuringly. They walked away and I tried to walk. I managed to stand and started to walk with a small limp.
“Hey coach I can play, I just need to walk a little, to get this ankle moving,” I said.
“Okay, I'll tell you when you’ll go back in,” he said. His look didn’t reassure me that he would put me back in though. Just like I thought, the coach didn’t put me in for the rest of the quarter and the whole 4th quarter just until there were 48 seconds left. We were down by only 4 points, but the feat seemed impossible. We did have ball though. Don drove down the middle of the court and threw it up toward the hoop. Lenny intercepted it in mid-air and slammed it home. We were only down by 2. The Celtics took their time taking their shot and eventually right before the shot clock expired, Patrick jacked up a shot, but it airballed and we got the ball with 18 seconds left. Coach then looked over to the referee and gave him a T sign signaling that he wanted a time-out. Then the referee blew his whistle and said, “Full, or 30.”
“Full please,” he replied. When he got back to the team he called in a huddle. “Everyone, we got 18 seconds and we have the ball, down by 2. I want Don to pass the ball in. He will pass it to Trea and he will hand it off back to Don, where he will get a screen from Terry, and pass it back down to him on a pick n’ roll. If that isn’t open then know, we still have 18 seconds left. Don’t rush it unless it’s open. I don’t have another time-out to spare,” he finished. “Yes coach,” we all shouted.
“Go get ‘em,” coach said as everyone went back onto the court. Don lined up to pass it in and that's when I knew something wasn’t right. It looked like they were in a zone so Terry would not get open at all. The team didn’t notice it yet though so Don passed it in and the play went into motion. As Don ran past Terry an opposite team defender stepped in his way and Don toppled over his foot and landed on his arm. He was hurt, and badly. The trainers saw his wrist and immediately took him directly to the locker room to get him fixed up. Finally, the coach said, “Pete, are you up to win us the game with 3 seconds left.”
“One-hundred percent coach,”
“Good, get out their son,” he said as he hit my back while I jogged onto the court. Trea passed the ball this time and straight to me. I jabbed right, faked left, and took a dribble backward across the three-point line. I straightened my feet and took a jump into the air. The ball rolled off my fingertips and swirled toward the hoop. It traveled for what felt like an eternity, and when it reached the hoop it hit the rim. It hit the rim, not once, nor twice, but 4 times before the ball sunk into the net. The stadium went silent for a second, but then my whole team ran out to me and swarmed me with hugs and pats on the back. Then 20 minutes later, when I held up the Finals MVP trophy, I couldn’t help but smile. That dream from a little boy 21 years ago, finally became a reality.