The two brothers, one taller, one shorter but still quite tall, were sitting on the taller one’s couch, engrossed in a game of NBA 2K. As the differences in scores between their two teams got larger and larger, the shorter one became visibly frustrated. After the taller one executed a perfect alley oop between his players, causing the simulated commentators to gush in exultant praise, the shorter one angrily paused the game. “Can we play something else please? Like, anything else?”
Jerami Grant smirked. “You just don’t like 2K because it reminds you of how you’re not on a team right now,” he said to brother Jerian. He unpaused the game so he could see his domination through to the end.
Jerian immediately re-paused the game and gave his brother a dirty look. “If you were anybody but my brother, I’d kick your ass straight into last week for saying that. You know, maybe I don’t even care that you’re my brother. I might still do it.”
“It’s true, though. That’s why you’re so butthurt right now.”
“Don’t rub it in,” Jerian replied. “I was a god in college, now I’m a nothing in the NBA. Literally nothing. I’m gonna have to play in Europe or something. It’s hard to deal with, man.”
For once, Jerami didn’t have any smartass comments to contribute. He could see that his brother was really hurting at his situation, and he felt bad for his inconsiderate words. Through a world-dulling haze of legal cannabis (which only seemed to increase his skill at video games, somehow), a vague plan, no more than an outline really, formed in his mind. “You could play with me on the Nuggets.”
Jerian rolled his eyes. “You’ve suggested that before, but my agent’s called them like five times and they always say they don’t have playing time or even a roster spot for me. Nobody wants Mr. Bust Man Jerian Grant on their team.”
“What if…” Jerami began before pausing to make sure his thoughts were in order. “What if they don’t know it’s you?”
Examining his new look in the mirror, Jerian shook his head. “I look stupid. This isn’t going to work at all.”
“It’s worked so far, hasn’t it?” Jerami replied. “I got you a workout by telling them that I discovered you at a YMCA in Colorado Springs. They’ve already seen the pixelly workout video that I shot of you using my old flip-phone from middle school. Your foot’s already in the door. Now we just have to make sure that nobody recognizes you as notorious draft bust and ruiner of Phil Jackson’s career, Jerian Grant.”
Jerian pulled on the dreadlock weave that he had gotten earlier that day. The woman at the salon had been way too excited to work on a man’s hair for once. “I feel like I’m going to make a hard cut and this thing’s gonna fall off. And let’s not get started on this eye makeup.”
“Eyes are, like, the number one way people recognize other people,” Jerami answered. “It’s the law of nature. Since you have really crazy alien eyes, I had to go overboard to minimize them.” Jerami had no prior experience in applying any kind of makeup, but had watched at least twenty minutes of makeup tutorials on YouTube, so he felt more than qualified to help his brother create a foolproof disguise. “But it’s totally working, dude. I don’t even recognize you as my brother. For real. Now, your workout’s in ten minutes, so let’s get going. You don’t want to ruin your one chance to make an NBA roster by being tardy.”
“I’m nervous,” Jerian said.
“You shouldn’t be. You know how to ball. Just make sure that you keep your dreads over your face so they can’t see your distinctive jaw structure.”
Jerami leaned against the wall as the workout proceeded. Every now and then he would whisper to one of the coaches, “he pulled that move on me at the YMCA” or “did you see that? He’s way more developed than our crappy rookies” or “he totally deserves at least a camp deal.” Jerian was doing everything that was asked of him with ease, and even his shooting drills went better than even Jerami had expected, given how unreliable he knew his brother’s jumpshot to be.
However, the quality of Jerian’s play began to deteriorate about an hour in. He was constantly rubbing his eyes and then wiping his hands off on his shorts. Soon, his white shorts were streaked with smeared makeup.
“I told him he didn’t need to wear makeup for the tryout, but he didn’t listen,” Jerami said under his breath to coach Mike Malone, trying to make a joke to distract from the fact that Jerian’s disguise was literally melting from sweat and exertion. “Save the makeup for the press conference, my man.”
Then, something even worse happened: as predicted, Jerian’s weave detached itself after a vigorous pump-fake. Rather than trying to play it off as a stylistic choice gone wrong, Jerian dropped the ball and ran out the gym doors without another word. Jerami wanted to pursue him, but had to play it cool.
“So, he’s on the team, right?”