Those poor old Leydecker Longhorns. They say that. We play the Chipman Chipmunks today. The last game of this awful season. Those Chips are undefeated, you know, going to the playoffs. We, the Horns, are defeated I guess. Going home after today. We got an okay squad though. Nothing to hang our heads about. Played some good games. Even almost won a few.
About these Longhorns, we’re all Asian kids. By chance, you know. Somewhere else in America, it might seem strange that a city parks and recreation team ended up with a team full of Asian kids, but that’s what makes the Bay Area special. Some people say that. The Chipman Chipmunks, who play ten minutes away, are all Black kids, so maybe there is something to be said. Hell, in this town, we got an all Mexican team. And an all White team. But it’s not segregated or something like that, over at Krusi Park, on the west end, they got a team full of mixed kids. White and Guatemalan, Filipino and Black, they got a Navajo and Eskimo kid. I swear, man.
Now when I say all Asian, I mean starting five plus the bench. And specifically, the Chinese kind of Asian. If the city could afford to put last names on shirts, our team would save on letters. We got a Cheng, Chan, Cheung, Chin and Cho. I’m serious, no joke. There’s Chris Cheng, Kevin Chan, Steve Cheung, Mike Chin and Jason Cho. Our middle school yearbook has five pages of “Ch.” The Black kids on Chipman have great last names like Washington, James, Banks and, well, Chipman. Hell, they got a player named Hardaway. No fooling around. Hardaway. Unbelievable.
Anyway, we get down early, something like forty points by the half. Not our worst showing. The Longhorns wear yellow shirts, the Chipmunks wear black shirts. You can’t make this stuff up. Their best player is Dontrell Wilson, a six-four 13-year-old with a mustache. We got one good player, Jason Cho. He’s a big chubby bastard, will go on next year to play high school ball. But Dontrell Wilson will go on to play pro.
And he does. Dontrell Wilson plays small forward for the Milwaukee Bucks for six seasons.
The game is not unlike past performances. Coach says we play triangle offense, but I don’t believe him. Me, I’m okay. I got a jump shot. I can dribble, you know, but I’m small. You can be small and good at basketball, don’t get me wrong, but you better be good good.
Dontrell, he’s got a triple double already. And a dunk. Over poor near-sighted Kevin Chan. It’s okay. We execute a couple pick and rolls. I mean, nobody beats a team like Chipman off fast breaks. I don’t have any points yet, but hey, I got an assist. To Jason Cho that hippo. He can bang in the paint with the best of them.
The score is 71 to 14 going into the fourth.
None of the Longhorn parents came today. Chipman is not really on the good side of town. So we all said the game was cancelled and rode our bikes straight after school. But there are plenty of Chipman parents and family members watching from the stands. Sometimes they even laugh. Hell, who can blame them? Not me.
So look, with minutes left in the game, we got a few goals on our mind, none of which involve winning. One, don’t get excessively embarrassed. No tomahawk jams, balls to the forehead or broken ankles. Two, don’t actually break your ankles or otherwise get hurt. That’s how you get the “privilege” of sports stripped from you for the rest of school. Three, walk away from defeat today chin up, a proud Longhorn. What else can you do in life? Nothing.
We bring the ball up without it getting stolen. Mike Chin passes a sloppy one to Steve Cheung. Jason Cho sets a late pick. The defense doesn’t bite. I jog the baseline to the deep corner. Steve bounces the ball off his butt. Regains control. Sees me. Heaves the rock cross court. Dontrell Wilson, like a gator in a zoo, watches this raw, plucked chicken sailing slow as hell over the pond. His eyes light up. He sprints toward me, toward the plunging poultry, full speed, the scent of an epic swat swirling around the air.
So get this. I catch the ball just fine. Then I throw up the best Goddamn pump fake in the history of pump fakes. My toes damn near leave the pavement. The ball almost slips from my fingertips. And Dontrell goes soaring right over me, ending up damn near upside down in the bushes. Then I square up and hit just about the prettiest three pointer you ever saw in your life. No joke. Swish.
I back pedal arm raised, gooseneck hanging. The crowd, all the Chipman family members, goes absolutely nuts. Even Dontrell’s teammates hoot and grab hold of one another.
The final score is 90 to 17, Chipmunks.
The teams walk in single file for the post-game low fives. Dontrell Wilson looks me in the eye and says, “Nice game, my man.” It could have just as well been Michael Jordan saying that to me. Hell of a guy, that Dontrell Wilson.
So what’s the point? I don’t know. But listen, fifteen years later, I’m playing pickup ball in Oregon. I’m there for work, don’t ask me why. At a local YMCA near my hotel. Now, don’t take this wrong way, but in Oregon, this part at least, I don’t think they got too many Blacks or Asians. It’s a tough game. Everyone is sweaty as hell after. Then this guy from the other team comes over and says, “Man, you’re pretty good for an Asian.” He says that.
“Thanks,” I say, sounding sincere too. “You know, I once sank a three pointer over Dontrell Wilson.”
“I swear, man.”
Vincent Chu was born and raised in the Bay Area. His short stories have appeared in the East Bay Review, Chicago Literati, WhiskeyPaper, Bookends Review and Tethered by Letters. Vincent Chu lives and writes in Cologne, Germany. You can find him at vincentchufiction.tumblr.com and @herrchu.