Josh McRoberts opened his eyes to find himself in a dimly-lit arena. The court bore no team-specific insignia, and there was nobody in the darkened stands.
“Not this dream again,” he groaned, eying the basketball that sat at center court. “I know what’s going to happen when I pick up that ball. It’s going to be too heavy, and I won’t be able to shoot it; just my psyche’s way of dealing with its subconscious anxieties.”
Walking over to the orange sphere, Josh was surprised when he was able to pick it up with no trouble at all. In no time, he was splashing threes and throwing down dunks. He laughed with jubilation, happy that he was finally having a basketball-related dream that wasn’t a nightmare.
The sound of hand-clapping came suddenly from the stands. Josh swiveled his head to find the source of the applause and saw a bright beam of light illuminating a single seat. In that seat sat NBA legend Bill Walton.
Basketball dropping, forgotten, from his hands, Josh walked over to greet his new spectator. There were so many questions to ask, but all Josh could some up with was, “How did you get into my dream?”
Bill laughed. “You’re going to have to answer that one on your own, buddy. It’s not my psyche we’re talking about here.”
“So, are you really Bill Walton, or are you a mere facsimile concocted by my sleeping brain?”
Looking down at his hands and then back up at Josh, Bill responded, “I certainly feel like the real Bill Walton, so yes, I would say that I am really Bill Walton.”
Realizing that his time in the dream was limited, Josh decided to cut to the chase. “So, why are you here? Do you have something to tell me?”
“Sit down, buddy,” Bill invited, patting the seat next to him. Josh sat. “I’ve been watching you since you were in high school. And I always knew that you would be something special.”
Josh snorted. “Yeah right. I’m doomed to be a role-player for the rest of my career.”
“Yes you are,” Bill replied. This frankness surprised Josh, and he looked up at the older man with wide, surprised eyes. Bill continued, “But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about your being the league’s only true hippie.”
Shaking his head, Josh retorted, “I’m not a hippie.”
Bill kept talking as if Josh had not said anything at all. Reminiscence glittered in his voice. “I remember when you were in college, fulfilling the jock persona that was expected of you. Even then, I could see your true nature.”
“No, you couldn’t, because that’s not my true nature at all,” Josh explained.
There was still no indication that Bill had heard the younger player’s words. “You cultivated this charade through your first few years in the league. Then, still in denial of your true self, you embraced a preppy style while with the Lakers.” Bill chuckled now, as if remembering something funny. “I must say, that neatly parted, immaculately gelled hair was not exactly flattering. especially considering that your soft face was shaven totally clean.”
“I was just trying something new. I wasn’t being a prep.”
“Quiet, buddy. I believed in you all through these hard times, and you can’t know how happy I was when you adopted a beard, when you began to let your hair grow naturally. It so warmed my heart to see you become a true hippie with the Bobcats.”
“No offense, but I’m just wearing my hair this way because the chicks dig it. It’s got nothing to do with being a hippie,” Josh said patiently, knowing that his words would not have any effect on the Hall-of-Famer. “I don’t even own any hippie clothes, and I drive a huge SUV forty miles one-way just to get to the arena.”
“You are doing well, Josh, following in my footsteps as the original NBA hippie. I would entrust the job to nobody but you, and I fully believe that you can see it through to the end.”
“But-,” Josh began, before being cut off.
“I must take my leave now. Before I vanish and let you return to the realm of the waking, I just want to let you know that I’m proud of you, Josh. Peace.”
With those words, Bill Walton’s form shimmered, shifted, and disappeared. Before he could step back on the court, Josh found that the whole scene was doing the same.
Josh awoke to the unexpected feel of cloth upon his chest. Usually he slept shirtless, but looking down at his torso, he saw that his dream had not been fully a dream.
A rainbow-colored tie-dyed T-shirt now festooned his body.