“Thanks for inviting me to come work out with you,” Markelle Fultz said to his teammate Joel Embiid. “I know I haven’t been around the team much so it means a lot that you still want to, like, include me.”
Joel looked up from his phone. “Trust me, I know what it’s like to be injured and away from the team,” he said in such a genuine way that Markelle physically felt a pang of emotion. “Let me just text our special guest and let him know you arrived.”
“Special guest?” Markelle asked. Now that he thought about it, a one-on-one workout with Joel didn’t make much sense, given the vast differences in their respective games.
“Yeah, I invited Mark Price to help you fix your jumpshot,” Joel replied. “He’s way more credentialed than your mom’s boyfriend or whoever that guy was who you were using as your shooting coach.”
Markelle was about to correct Joel’s misconceptions when the gym doors opened and in walked Mark Price. Markelle’s first thought was that Mark was quite a bit taller than expected. He also looked too pale, but Markelle attributed that to Mark getting up there in years. “Thanks for agreeing to help me with my shot, I really appreciate it,” he said as he gave Mark a firm, professional handshake.
“The pleasure’s all mine,” Mark said. “I’ve been watching all those workout videos of yours and I was just thinking that I would really love to come work with you, and then, what do you know, Joel here calls me up and he’s like ‘come fix Markelle’s broken jumper’ and I’m like ‘I’m there bro’.”
“You always wanna take shooting lessons from white people,” Joel added as Markelle puzzled over the fact that Mark definitely had a noticeable Australian accent. Maybe he had finished his playing career there, or something. “You guys should get started,” Joel continued. “I’ll sit over here and film it for Instagram so everybody can see how Markelle’s been cured.” He handed the basketball in his hand to Mark and then went to sit against the wall of the gym.
“So, Markelle,” Mark began. “I’m going to take a couple shots now. Watch closely. Witness the wetness.” Mark proceeded to shoot five midrange jumpshots, of which only two went in.
Markelle wanted to be respectful but couldn’t keep in his thoughts. “Uh, shouldn’t your release be quicker?”
“Who’s the shooting expert here?” Mark replied, fixing Markelle with a stern gaze. “The goal isn’t to give you a mechanically perfect jumpshot. That would be a lost cause. The goal is to give you a mechanically consistent jumpshot. And to remove that gross hitch you have, because every time I see it it makes me want to die.”
Joel snickered as he pointed his phone towards the workout. Markelle thought it wasn’t nice of Joel to find humor in his jumpshot hitch.
Mark took a few more shots, but his overall accuracy hadn’t improved. “See? No hitch. This could be you if you embrace my teachings.”
“I’m ready to embrace your teachings,” Markelle said.
“The first teaching is that, if you can shoot a bowling ball from the free throw line, everything else will fall into place,” Mark said, pulling a neon-blue bowling ball from his backpack. “With something this heavy, you can’t waste any motion, which should also help in making your release smoother.” He handed the bowling ball to his student.
Markelle received the ball reluctantly. “Shouldn’t you demonstrate first?” he asked.
“Why should I?” Mark retorted. “My shot’s already perfect. I don’t need to practice anymore. You’re the one who needs to practice.” Not being able to pierce a hole in Mark’s logic, Markelle walked to the free throw line and prepared to shoot. The ball was too smooth to grip properly, so he had to be very careful when bringing it above his head. When he was sure the ball wouldn’t fall out of his grasp and crush his skull, he shot.
The ball arced forward a few feet, but came nowhere close to the rim. Markelle winced as the ball bounced hard off the floor of the gym, leaving a visible dent.
“That sucked,” Mark said. “Let’s skip to the second teaching, which is to shoot with your off hand so that you’re forced to relearn good mechanics. Tristan Thompson did this and he banged a Kardashian, so you know it works.”
“I thought you didn’t care about good mechanics,” Markelle replied. He was feeling very confused.
“It sounds like somebody doesn’t want my help,” Mark said in an exasperated tone, starting to walk to the exit. “Good luck being a bust. I hope we trade you.”
Despite his feelings being hurt, Markelle realized something. “We? You were never a Sixer.”
“He fell for it! He totally fell for it!” Joel yelled, running over with his phone still out. “Dude, that ain’t Mark Price! It’s Ben wearing makeup! Ben Simmons was your shooting coach!”
Markelle stood there and looked sadly at the floor as both Joel and Ben laughed at him. Soon, the video would be out there for the world to see, and everybody would know that he still couldn’t shoot a jumpshot.