“Great game, rookie,” said a light voice from somewhere behind. An unmistakable voice. Kobe’s voice.
Lonzo stopped walking off the court and looked around, but didn’t see the former Laker anywhere nearby. He had just started walking again when he heard the same voice speak a second time. “Hey, don’t worry about getting your game-winner blocked. Lord knows I missed my share of game-winners.”
Carefully surveying his surroundings, Lonzo couldn’t see Kobe anywhere. There weren’t many people nearby, so it wasn’t like he could be hiding, and his voice had been crystal-clear.
“Don’t worry, Lonzo,” Kobe’s voice said with a laugh. “You aren’t going insane. I just happen to be…somewhere else…right now. Here, let me show you.”
Before Lonzo realized what was going on, he felt an odd sensation overwhelm his body, and then he vaporized out of existence.
Lonzo was lying on his back on what felt like sand. A quick look around confirmed this fact. The twilight sky was a mixture of blue and pink; faint stars could be seen glimmering in it. He sat up dazedly, not sure what had just happened.
“Now we can speak in person,” said Kobe, still wearing the suit he had worn for the game, as he walked up to Lonzo and helped him to his feet. “That should be easier for you. Sometimes I forget that not everybody can master telepathy as quickly as I can.”
“So you abducted me to the desert so we could talk in person, even though we were in the same arena for probably four hours,” Lonzo said sarcastically, somehow summarizing the situation calmly despite its absurdity. “Makes sense.”
“You know that nobody’s gonna leave you alone when you get back there,” Kobe replied. “There’s no privacy anywhere in that place. That’s why I did this.” He gestured vaguely to the sand at his feet and to the distant mountains, barely discernible in shadow. “Now we’re alone and I can tell you the important stuff that I don’t want their microphones picking up.”
Lonzo raised his eyebrows. The hushed peptalk he had received from LeBron a few days prior must have become more widely known. “You know that if the GOAT says he has something important to tell me, I’ll shut up and listen.”
“It’s your team now,” Kobe said, his eyes staring directly into Lonzo’s. “You might not feel like it at the moment, but it is.”
“Yeah, I know,” Lonzo replied.
“I can see into your heart, and I see you don’t quite believe me,” Kobe continued. “That’s okay. These things take time.” He scratched his chin in thought. “That’s all I have for you, I think. I guess I never led the team through words so much as I led it through actions, so you’ll have to forgive my brevity.”
Lonzo shrugged. Just having the support of the GOAT, even while struggling through the first part of his rookie season, was enough for him. “Where are we, anyway?”
“Area 51, naturally,” Kobe answered.
“So, what, you’re an alien or something?” Lonzo joked.
Suddenly, a bright, circular light flashed into the sky. As Lonzo watched with awe, the light descended towards them, and the details of the object became clearer. It was a UFO. He looked away from the whirring craft to look at Kobe, whose suit jacket was blowing back in the newly-created wind. Kobe had his arms raised as if receiving the visitors.
“No way,” Lonzo breathed. “No way.”
“Yes way,” Kobe said, somehow hearing Lonzo’s hushed voice over the din. “It is time for me to rejoin my people…the starkindred.”
Lonzo could only watch dumbly as the UFO positioned its center directly over the spot where Kobe stood. Some faraway part of his mind was warning him to get out of the way, but he just stood in place a few feet away, his eyes stinging from the sand being kicked into the air. A green beam of light emerged from the bottom of the craft and extended downwards until it enveloped the body of his idol.
“Remember, it’s your team now,” Kobe said as his feet gently lifted off the desert floor and he was drawn towards the spaceship. “I’m afraid I won’t be around to give you any more advice than that. I must return home.” Even though he was a hundred feet in the air, Kobe’s voice was as clear and loud as ever.
“Wait!” Lonzo yelled. “How do I get back to Los Angeles?”
“I’ve arranged for your return trip,” Kobe answered, and Lonzo could see even from this distance that he was smiling his characteristic Kobe smile. “Good luck!”
Then, with a zapping noise, the UFO disappeared, leaving Lonzo in the dark desert night. Just as he was starting to worry that perhaps his return trip hadn’t been arranged, he felt that same sensation all across his body, and everything went black.
“Lonzo, you okay man?”
Lonzo opened his eyes and saw Larry Nance staring at him with concern. “Yeah, just zoned out a bit. You know, thinking about Kobe.”
Larry laughed. “Don’t think too much about him, man. It’s your team now.”
Lonzo smiled. “I know.”