“You will make a season dunk compilation for LeBron James,” Adam Silver says, revealing the reason that he has invited me to his office.
Even though I am unnerved by Adam’s stern expression, I am defiant. “No. It is beyond the scope of my channel. Do you not have the resources to make the video yourselves?”
Adam bristles. “Of course we do,” he replies. “But our media team is stretched to the limit with other projects, and season dunk compilations have always been left to the individual highlight makers.”
“Dunkilations,” I correct automatically. “But the answer is still no. LeBron is off-limits for me. Anybody else, I at least consider it. But not LeBron. No way.” I stand up from my chair and prepare to leave.
Adam beckons me to sit back down, but I ignore him as I head for the door. With my hand on the knob, I feel the locking mechanism activate. I shake the handle for a few seconds, then realize that I can’t leave. My anxiety grows as I turn back around to unwillingly return to the negotiating table. My rates will be raised tenfold, I tell myself.
When LeBron himself crawls out from underneath Adam’s desk and stands menacingly next to the Commissioner, being awestruck by his celebrity is the farthest thing from my mind. “No offense to you, Mr. James, but there is no chance that your dunkilation will ever sully my channel, a channel which has unwaveringly supported role-players and scrubs from day one.”
LeBron does not respond to my words. He seems hesitant about something.
“Take him down,” Adam snarls. At this command, LeBron starts to walk towards me. Seeing what is about to happen, I put my hands up, not wanting to resist. Despite my pacifying gesture, LeBron punches me square in the jaw, and I am knocked out.
I wake up in a dim, dingy room. There is no light save for a computer monitor.”Ughh,” I moan. It feels like my jaw is broken. Maybe it is. The pain is intense.
“They got you too, huh?” says the man who is sitting at the computer screen. I cannot make out many details of my companion.
“Who are you?” I ask. The whole situation is very disorienting.
“Dawkins. And you must be DownToBuck.”
In any other circumstance I would immediately begin a conversation about the highlight-making art, and the day-to-day annoyances of it, but now there is only one question burning in my mind. “What’s going on?”
“Is it not clear?” Dawkins answers. “We have been enslaved by the NBA to make their highlight videos. I’ve been here since the playoffs.” His attitude is not as dark as I would expect; if what he says is true, he has had months to become used to these sparse accommodations.
Suddenly, a man bursts in. “What did I tell you? No talking! Back to work!” he bellows, stomping over to where Dawkins sits and knocking him roughly to the floor.
“Sorry, sorry,” Dawkins whimpers as the man kicks him in the chest. The man decides that Dawkins has received enough punishment and leaves as quickly as he arrived. “You should start working,” Dawkins says to me, slowly placing himself back on his chair. “You’ll find everything you need on that computer. That is, everything but adequate food and water.” His voice is wheezy and weak from the attack.
I sit down at the computer next to Dawkins’. I see that all my normal video-editing tools are present, including an internet browser.
“Don’t bother trying to get to your email or anything,” Dawkins croaks. “NBA.com and YouTube are the only sites that work.”
“Can’t you post something on YouTube to your subscribers, asking for help?” I whisper.
Dawkins shakes his head. “I have to get the enforcers to log me in, and then they watch me whenever I upload anything.”
I nod, but already, an idea is forming in my mind. I start work on compiling all of LeBron’s dunks. The familiarity of the task offers me a small measure of comfort. No more words are said, for fear of invoking the wrath of our overseers.
“I’m done with the LeBron dunkilation,” I say meekly to the man who brings us our daily ration of stale bread and lukewarm water. “I even wrote a funny description to go with it. It’s about LeBron riding a banana boat at Kyrie’s white-girls-only yacht party.”
“It’s pretty funny,” Dawkins supplies. “His subs won’t suspect a thing.”
The man grunts in assent as he types in my own modified login credentials. I open a text file containing the banana boat description and start uploading the video. Then, as planned, Dawkins also asks to be logged in to upload his latest video to his own channel. I quickly swap out the first description for another secret description I have written, leave a comment on the video, then log out and close the browser window.
The man leaves. Dawkins leans over and whispers in my ear, “Did you do it?”
I give him the thumbs up. He returns the gesture. Now, our only hope is that my video description is not taken as a joke, but instead, as a plea for help.