It was past midnight, and the park was quiet. Nick stood in front of the basketball hoop with a ball in his hands, but didn’t move. This was the first test. Had his months of hard work and strict adherence to the workout plan paid off? He would soon find out, and the thought made him nervous. So, he stood there in the empty park, waiting for nothing.
Nick realized that he could only faintly see the rim, lit as it was only by a far-off streetlight. He wondered if he would miss, not by failing to jump high enough, but by failing to realize where the rim was. He decided that if that was the way his dunk was going to fail, he could come back in the daytime and try again. The whole point of coming in the middle of the night was to avoid the scrutiny and judgement of any passersby if his vertical jump came up short, as he feared it might.
The basketball felt heavy in his hands. He had never jumped while holding something. He took one dribble, then stopped; the sound was too loud, and, besides, he had sat out the entire basketball unit in gym class with a forged doctor’s note, so there was no reason to believe he would be able to string together a series of multiple dribbles.
It was kind of funny how he had been training so hard for this, yet still had no desire to actually play the game of basketball. BoingAlert was marketed towards aspiring dunkers, sure, but the supplied marketing imagery made sure to emphasize in-game dunks as well as empty-gym dunks. Nick wasn’t sure he would ever play a game of real basketball, even if this dunk attempt proved successful. He wasn’t even sure if he was doing this for himself anymore or if it was purely about some abstract idea of impressing Jennifer.
All this thinking was just wasting time, or, more accurately, stalling for time, since Nick was still reluctant to put his BoingStuff-fueled legs to the test. He couldn’t stand here at the top of the three-point line forever, could he? Without stopping to second-guess himself, he began to run towards the basket, not dribbling, just running with the ball in both hands. When he got to a spot a few feet before the rim, he jumped off two feet, not knowing if he was too far away or not far away enough.
Raising the ball above his head, Nick was surprised at how high he was getting. It was almost better than any of the practice jumps he had been doing in his room. The barely-seen rim was getting closer. Just a few more inches and he would be there…
Then, it happened. At the apex of his jump, he had just enough clearance to drop the ball through the net and let his fingertips graze the rim. Not daring to attempt a celebratory grab of the rim like he saw so often in YouTube highlights, Nick descended to the asphalt along with the freshly-dunked ball.
Five minutes later, he was still standing there, in disbelief at what he had just done. BoingAlert had fulfilled its promise; he was a dunker now. In defiance of the discouragement from his friends and his bratty sister, he had done it.
Nick had stopped in the hallway. This was usually a bad idea, given that he was barely on time for most of his classes as it was. But he stood his ground against the jostling of the other students trying to get around him, and read the flyer on the wall.
“PEP RALLY” it read at the top in red block letters. “With appearances from all your varsity sports teams, a talent show, a small performance from the pep band, and a dunk contest.” it continued in a smaller font. Nick had read this part several times, making sure he was understanding it correctly. A dunk contest? In front of the whole school? It was almost too perfect. In all his fantasies, Jennifer witnessed his dunking prowess in some vague, ill-defined setting. Now, there was a ready-made opportunity to showcase his new abilities.
As the hallway began to clear out, the idea of it was already forming in his mind. He would go last, after several members of the basketball team had tried, and failed, to dunk a basketball. There would be disbelieving laughs as he took the ball and readied his attempt. Then, those laughs would turn to cheers as he rose up for a powerful dunk, and Jennifer would be right in the front row…
“Sign me up for the dunk contest,” Nick told Mrs. Clark, the perky gym teacher who was putting together the pep rally. Nick secretly thought she was pretty hot, but that thought was currently far from his mind. He needed to make sure he got his chance.
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Clark asked. “It’s on a ten-foot rim, you know. It’s not one of those novelty contests.”
Nick rolled his eyes impatiently. “Yes I’m sure. I’ll be ready.”
Mrs. Clark shrugged her shoulders. “Fine. I’ll take your word for it. We always have a few failed attempts each year.”
Nick was already walking out the door. “And I won’t be one of them,” he said proudly over his shoulder. There were still two weeks to prepare, to binge on BoingStuff and go extra hard on the workouts. He would not allow himself to fail.