(3) Lewis Scott, Celtic Pride vs. (6) Butch McRae, Blue Chips
Butch McRae had felt like this since the day it all started. By the day it all started, he meant the afternoon after practice at Western when he came storming into Pete Bell’s office.
“What is it Butch?” Bell had asked him, only caring to a certain point as he fidgeted around the room, drawing on the whiteboard or grabbing a soda.
He didn’t want to hear that the 18-year-old was homesick. Even when Butch told him a few times, it wasn’t convincing to the old coach. “Every year a couple of guys come in here and tell me they’re homesick. Everything is gonna be fine once the season starts…”
So when Butch sprang the real question, the thing that had been dogging him – will my mother lose her house and job if I leave? – it set Bell off, and sent McRae into a nosedive that didn’t end even when he left school later that month.
That was the end of college for him, and the end of fun. It wasn’t too long before he found himself a millionaire playing in the NBA, but even that wasn’t all peaches and cream. They were demands from every corner, appearances and interviews that he didn’t really want to do and of course, everyone wanted to ask about the scandal, about his mother and about what it was like to cheat.
It was a witch hunt, and they were using Butch as a way to get at other players and programs. Who else offered you money? Did any other players talk about what they got? Did your mother really get a new job and house? 82 games of this wore him down, and he saw his stock plummet from being a top-10 pick to not even being able to get off the bench by the end of his rookie season.
On the final regular season game of the year, they had played Utah and it’s star, Lewis Scott. McRae had always respected the All-Star, but it was from afar. He had never known him or met him; even during the team’s first matchup of the season, Scott had been out with an ankle injury and didn’t play.
But what he did that day in April… Butch would never forgive him.
Basketball wasn’t really fun anymore, and even in the midst of this Dime Ultimate Movie Baller one-on-one battle with Scott, that was all McRae could think about. The pressure was so great. The stakes so high. He should be killing this cat, at least that’s what he thought in his mind. Instead, it was a battle.
That day in Bell’s office was the day it died for McRae. The beast inside of him wasn’t there anymore, like it had been back at St. Joseph’s when he was a teenager and all he cared about was getting his picture on a Wheaties box or watching himself on SportsCenter. Now, it waned on him, and he could feel the pressure suffocating him against Scott.
This dude is old and barely hanging on, he thought. If I just let go of whatever it is that’s holding me down, I’d win this easily. But basketball is more mental than anything else, he knew, and mentally, he was going to have to fight to survive Lewis Scott.
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