(2) Moses Guthrie, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh vs. (15) Billy Hoyle, White Men Can’t Jump
For some reason, the scent of salt is identifiable even though we aren’t near the ocean. The court is full with everyone crowded around one basket.
“Ah, f— you, your mother’s an astronaut,” Moses Guthrie spits out. Yes, Moses said that, the man too cool for his own good, the player who’s never once lost his head in an ABA game. Is it happening here? Is he getting played by a 5-9 dude with a goofy smile, some grey baggy socks, a parental advisory shirt and one of the dirtiest hats on you’ve ever seen?
Moses starts calling him names. Mr. Brady Bunch, Mr. Beach Boy, they all start rolling off his tongue and even he’s surprised by himself. Really? One of the best players in the ABA can’t keep his cool in this setting? Something touched a nerve.
This might as well be Venice Beach. Pittsburgh isn’t on a beach though, and the weather is just giving us a break. There’s wind, but not too much. There’s a dark sky, but it feels just overcast more than anything else.
So the two of them start shooting. Moses knows that’s not his strength, but guess what? $62 to his pride makes it his strength. He’s not losing twice in two games to the chump. This nerd.
“I never hit two in a row,” the outsider calls to everyone by the second shot. Of course he makes it. Maybe he’s just feeling lucky today. By the third shot, the buzz is growing in the crowd. By the fourth shot, even Moses is getting heated, sweating during a time in the year where he shouldn’t be. It’s the fifth shot that gets him, falling short for Moses. It’s not really a surprise. His jump shot was never his greatest asset. What’s more surprising is this dweeb of a basketball player won’t miss.
It comes down to the final shot, and the entirety of Moses’ crew is anxious. This outsider standing at the arc can see their nervous twitches, but he doesn’t feel any of it.
“The fact is I miss this shot, I walk away I’m still a chump,” he says to Moses. “But if you miss, then you’ve been beat, well not once, but twice by a slow, white, geeky chump…”
The white boy checks his feet, lines up the angle from just behind the three-point line, and begins to bring the ball up to shoot. But just as it passes by his face, he notices a man out of the corner of his eye. A short guy, but with a bright yellow jersey on, tucked in, and a hat with the brim snapped back. He’s colorful, and the smile spreading across his face is bigger than he is. He wanted to be in this tournament. But he didn’t make the cut. Supposedly, he said he would rather look good and lose than look bad and win. So his boy went on without him…though they did briefly try to enter as a tag team.
No one seems to notice the look the two friends give each other. Everyone else is busy staring forward, waiting on Billy Hoyle to shoot and to end this little bet one way or another.
Hoyle takes a step back and a breath, straightens himself out again, and then lofts a soft, floating shot at the rim. The ball barely has any rotation on it, and seems to move with the air. Floating, floating, floating…
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