The last thing I remember was leaving Mitch’s Pre-St. Patrick’s Day after-party. I remember walking south on Robinson towards my condo in the Deep Deuce. Always hated that name. I remember seeing three homeless men taking shelter at a bus stop. I proceeded to dunk on all three of them. Or was it four? I can’t recall. Drinks were in me. As was the night.
So I kissed her cheek, spun left and dunked on her with two hands.
Nothing peculiar occurred at the party except… there was this Russian woman. She approached me and complimented my game. Any mindless fool could tell she was flirting but I could detect more.
“She wants something… else,” I spoke quietly to myself.
“Yeah! She wants you to put up a cool triple double in her bed tonight. ZING ZANG ZONG!” shouted Dion.
The woman smiled at Dion’s nonsense. I was not interested in this kind of promiscuity for I was in love with another. The evening began to feel uncomfortable so I dunked on everyone and left. Do you ever look at the stars and just know that your maker has it in for you? I have that feeling… every night.
I headed to 13th and Western to find a cab. No luck. Restless thoughts began creeping in. Who was I? Where did I belong? Was I an MVP? After several minutes of searching, I felt a cold Russian hand on my shoulder.
“My name is… ”
“That’s a lie.”
She looked puzzled as if I had blown whatever cover she was hiding.
“How did you know I was a Russian spy?” she asked.
I leaned in close.
“Didn’t. I just know there aren’t any Russians named Phyllis. [wink]“
I decided to walk home so I kissed her cheek, spun left and dunked on her with two hands. I also screamed in her face and pounded my chest. That would teach her to never speak to me again.
I made it nearly nine blocks before the ambush. There were six men surrounding me. No words were spoken — eyes said it all. These fools were here for trouble. One man lunged at me with a knife but I quickly moved right and dunked on him. Arms reached around my neck from behind. I flipped that guy over my back and dunked on him too. Must have dunked on five guys before it happened. A blow to the head and a bag on my head.
That’s how I got here. The question is… why?
This was no ordinary Jewish lady.
I’m blindfolded. My hands are tied behind my back. The smell — nauseating. If I had anything in my stomach I would have thrown it up by now. Not sure I can dunk my way out of this one. Where was I? How long had I been here?
A large metal door opens. Footsteps walking towards me. The loud echo says I’m in some sort of empty storage container. The training had never prepared me for something like this. Suddenly, my blindfold is ripped off. The light is too bright for my eyes. I don’t flinch though.
“Russell Westbrook,” said a Jewish lady’s voice.
I remain silent.
“Are you hungry?”
The Jewish lady unties my wrists. She hands me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can tell from the smell that we’re dealing with Smuckers – grape. The man had clearly done his research on my weaknesses in the field. I give in and devour the tasty treat.
“You’re safe, Russell.”
The Jewish lady hands me a glass of water.
“We won’t hurt you if… you do as your told.”
The blur in my eyes begins to fade and I can see again. I look up and my jaw hits the floor. Water spills from my mouth. I recognize those eyes — that grin. What horror. Nobody is safe, for this was no ordinary Jewish lady.
“But you’ve… you’ve.”
“Retired? I did… UNOFFICIALLY.”
Just then Stern takes out an iPhone and pushes several buttons. A figure emerges from the light. Thank God. It’s Adam Silver.
“Commissioner Silver! You have to help me!”
Stern looks at Silver and commands, “Silver 6000. I order you to slap Russell Westbrook.”
Silver complies. [smack]
“I’d dunk on you so hard if I wasn’t tied up you son-of-a-bitch.”
“Well, you are so…”
He’s laughing now.
“I need you to do something for me. It’s a simple task. Complete it and I set you free. Piece of cake.”
“What is it you want me to do?”
“I need you to take the pledge.”
“Russell Westbrook. I need you to pledge App-legiance”
I had dunked on this person once before.
[Flashback to an old country house]
Papa and I were feeding ducks at the ol’ pond. We were having a grand ol’ time dunking all over them. I asked papa about mama and when she was coming home. He looked down and walked away. After supper I asked papa about mama again and he began to cry. That night, a group of men broke into our home. Papa rushed into my room and frantically told me to hide under the bed. He told me that mama refused to pledge App-legiance and that’s why she’s not with us. He made me promise to never pledge App-legiance… ever. I promised and quickly hid under the bed. The men stormed in and took my papa away forever.
My eyes are fixated on the ground.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
I raise my head and look Stern in the eyes.
“Commissioner Stern. I do not pledge App-legiance.”
“You heard me.”
“Well, that’s too bad for your friend then.”
Stern snaps his fingers and Silver 6000 drags a woman in with a bag on her head. They sit her right across from me. Silver 6000 walks to a giant speaker on the left.
Stern nods at Silver 6000. He pushes play and the NBA League Pass music starts to fill the room.
“I’m going to the deli to give you time to think. You have three hours to take the pledge. Refuse… and she gets it.”
Silver pulls the bag off her head. I had dunked on this person once before.
It was the Russian woman.