Jayson Tatum approached his locker in a sort of daze. After their game-seven loss to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, everything had taken on a tinge of dismal surreality. They had made it so far, and now it was all over, and there was no trip to the Finals in their future.
He sat down heavily and began to unlace his shoes when he realized that he had just sat on something that had been left in his locker. Standing up again, he looked down and saw that it was a folded up piece of paper. Curious, he opened it up and read:
“I want to add you to my list of people I work out with this summer.”
The note was unsigned, so Jayson called out to his teammates, “Hey, did any of you leave this note in my locker? If you did, it’s not a very funny joke.” A few of his teammates looked up at him sadly, shook their heads, and went back to their post-game routines. None said anything. Jayson tossed the note in his bag and forgot about it.
Jayson trudged into his apartment carrying a sizable stack of mail from his mailbox. Even now, a week after being eliminated from the playoffs, it was hard to be enthusiastic about anything. The conversations he had had with his teammates indicated they felt the same way. Some of the more veteran players told him that life would return to normal eventually, but Jayson wasn’t sure. He spent a lot of time thinking about if there was anything he could have done differently, not only in game seven, but in the other Celtics losses as well.
He thought about these things while absent-mindedly sorting through his mail. Most of it was junk, but one envelope caught his eye; it had no address written on it, which meant it had to have bypassed the postal system. It was slightly suspicious, not least because his address was known to only a few close friends, but he wanted to know what was inside. He ripped open the envelope, pulled out the single piece of stationery inside, and read:
“You got me. You f***ing boomed me.”
That was it. No signature. Jayson was reminded, suddenly, of the forgotten note he had received after game seven, which had also been anonymously written and delivered.
He re-read the note, hoping to get more meaning out of it the second time, but there was no more meaning to be found. Jayson didn’t even know what “boomed” was supposed to mean. There was no context. Was it a bomb threat of some kind or just some infatuated fan? The first note had clearly been from a fellow player or a trainer, whereas this one could be from anybody. It just didn’t make sense.
Jayson replaced the letter in the envelope, feeling slightly unsettled.
A week later, things were, as promised, returning to normal. Jayson no longer spent entire days cooped up in his apartment, ruminating on the things that could have been. Now, he was getting close to the point where he could think about basketball with enthusiasm rather than depression. He had been going out more, hanging out with teammates, living the life of a young NBA player experiencing his first off-season. And part of that life was getting ready for a night at the club.
Stepping out of his shower and drying himself off, he noticed that a voicemail was waiting for him on his phone. The number it was from was unfamiliar, but, like with his home address, only people close to him knew his phone number; teammates, friends, family, team staff, and his agent. That was it. So, expecting the message to be important, he listened to it right away.
“You’re so good,” a breathy, quiet voice said. This simple phrase was repeated four times. Nothing else followed; the message clicked off with no indication of who had left it. Disconcerted, Jayson tried redialing the number, but got a robotic female voice informing him that the number could not be reached.
Did he have a stalker or something? Jayson was worried about this pattern of anonymous communications, but tried to push the worry out of his head as he got ready for his night out.
It felt good to be back on the basketball court. At the Celtics’ practice facility, accompanied by a single trainer, Jayson put up his shots, slowly recovering his muscle memory after a weeks-long break from anything and everything basketball.
After a particularly pure three-pointer, Jayson noticed that his trainer was staring at something on the far end of the gym. Jayson was about to ask what was up when he was suddenly tackled from behind by somebody bigger and stronger than him.
“What the hell?” he exclaimed before he opened his eyes and saw none other than LeBron James lying on top of him.
“I want to work out with you,” LeBron said. “Ever since you dunked on me, ever since you boomed me, I’ve wanted to. You’re so good.”
The anonymous messages now made more sense in light of LeBron’s strange confession. “Sure. Yeah, man. We can work out. It would be an honor.”
“The honor is all mine,” LeBron said happily, standing up and helping Jayson to his feet. “Let’s see if you can boom me again.”