(4) Jesus Shuttlesworth, He Got Game vs. (15) Billy Hoyle, White Men Can’t Jump
“Is your son Jesus Shuttlesworth?”
“Is your son considered the No. 1 college prospect in these United States of America?”
He couldn’t read the man’s face. It was too dark for that, the moon blocked out by buildings. 3:31 a.m. A mild night, with a slight breeze hitting his back, and yet he felt nothing mild about this pitch. He wasn’t sure why this man had cornered him, didn’t know at all what he wanted and yet here they were talking.
“Some people rate him that high. Some don’t. 2, 3, 6.”
Laughter followed that, the shadow beside him bellowing out a deep chuckle from the bottom of his stomach, drowning out Jake Shuttlesworth’s voice.
“Don’t be modest. You ought to be proud. You ought to be proud as a peacock…”
Crossing his arms, Jake could hear that sentence was dipped in amusement, yet he still couldn’t see the man’s face. There was only one answer to give.
“I’ve always been proud of my son even before he was the No. 1 prospect in the whole entire world…”
The lie slipped out the side of his mouth. What was he supposed to say? The man in black wanted to hear that, and so Jake gave it to him, even if he had to smirk slightly as he said it.
After that he listened, long and hard. The man’s plan didn’t necessarily include him. He just needed some advice from the father of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the man considered the favorite to win in the finals of Dime’s Ultimate Movie Baller tournament. It was a plan the man in black wanted and needed: how can you stop Jesus? It wasn’t about Jesus losing or else Jake would’ve walked right out of there, his 13s splashing through puddles left on the side of the road. It was only to see his son win by less than three, and win it all playing Billy Hoyle’s game.
He came to the right man, Jake thought. I was the one who put the ball in his hands. I was the one who put the ball in his crib. I named him. I brought him into the world. Everything he got he got from me.
But did he really want to help this man? He couldn’t even see his face. Was he working with Hoyle? You couldn’t trust that white boy. Even when he lost, you were never quite whether he had actually won. A 5-8, skinny, goofy white boy with a set shot and a mouth that never quits, Jake told himself, actually made it to the finals of this one-on-one tournament. Hoyle had beaten pros. He had beaten college stars. Something’s been up. It has to be. How else could he explain this?
The only time he had ever met Hoyle, the man was wearing ragged sweatpants and a fluorescent beach shirt, but still somehow took money and pride from Jake when he hustled him into making a bet on the number of bank shots he could hit from the top of the key. He might not have the physical ability, but he was smart and had better instincts than anyone. Jake knew. He knew Jesus could play that game, but not nearly as well as Hoyle. Would he get rattled?
Maybe I should take up this man on his offer. But what would his son think? It took Jesus years to finally forgive his father for what had happened. What if he found out about this? No, it couldn’t happen. Too risky. Jesus would win either way, and Jake didn’t need to stick his nose in where it didn’t belong. This was his son’s time, and his son’s tournament.
Jesus would win this tournament…or at least he hoped…
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