JaVale McGee sat cross-legged on the locker room floor, a screwdriver in one hand, a soldering iron in the other, looking confused.
“JaVale, what the heck are you doing?” LeBron James said as he walked into the room, trying and failing to contain his exasperation towards his immature, scatter-brained teammate. “Science fair project?”
Looking up at LeBron and then down at the disassembled FM radio, JaVale shrugged. “Dunno. Just thought, you know, if I tinkered with this thing a bit, maybe I could talk to aliens or something.” He experimentally jabbed the screwdriver into the innards of the radio, where he could hear some delicate part get crushed. “Oh. That wasn’t smart, was it?” he chided himself.
“Aliens?” LeBron repeated disbelievingly. “Over the radio? Come on, man. We got a game tonight. Stay focused.”
“I’m almost done, I swear,” JaVale replied. “Don’t be so uptight. The radio was free off Craigslist and you’re always telling us that we should have hobbies outside of basketball.”
“Tell me, JaVale, do you know anything about radios, electromagnetism, or electronics of any kind?”
JaVale shook his head while staring abashedly at the radio, which had a lot of extra solder connecting random components inside.
“Then it’s not your hobby.”
JaVale didn’t respond. Instead, he put his tools back in his toolbox and sadly put the case back onto the radio. Satisfied by this, LeBron walked off to his locker. When the radio was back in one piece, JaVale took it to his own locker, plugged it in, and turned it on. It lit up, but made no noise. His tinkering had damaged it to the point where it wouldn’t receive any stations. Disappointed at his own juvenile behavior, he left it where it was and went outside to get some fresh air.
JaVale walked around the plaza next to the arena. This early before the game, there weren’t many basketball fans out and about. With his headphones in, he was not bothered, not that he minded having a chat with a fan or two. Lost in his thoughts, he barely noticed when an unexpected shadow passed over him, briefly chilling him in the shadow.
The next time it happened, however, JaVale looked up at the sky with annoyance. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky; what kept blocking the sun? But when the object passed by for a third time, JaVale had a hard time believing what his eyes were seeing.
It was a flying saucer. A UFO. Above him and getting lower. Turning off his music, he could hear it making a low whirring noise, and the blue flashing lights below it could clearly be seen even in the daylight.
“You called us, human,” echoed a voice that was not a physical sound, but a direct stimulation of his auditory cortex. “And we have heeded your call.”
JaVale continued to stare dumbfounded at the UFO. His radio…had it actually worked? It occurred to him that he should say something smart in order to make a positive impression on these extraterrestrial visitors, but he couldn’t think of anything smart. Instead, he asked:
“Can I come to space with you?”
“Welcome aboard our craft, human,” said the alien that was in the beam-receptor lobby. The creature was a purple cylinder, three feet in height, with a myriad of appendages that could have been ears, eyes, arms, or something else entirely. “We must admit that we never expected to receive communications from your planet. Your kind is…technologically primitive, to put it kindly. But you, you must possess the finest intellect of all humankind.”
“I like to think so,” JaVale replied. He looked out the window and saw planets, stars, and asteroids zooming by, some of them alarmingly close to the craft. “I don’t suppose I can get any of your alien technology to take back home?”
The alien turned orange. Was that a sign of changing emotions? “Unfortunately, no. Your feeble-minded species would obliterate itself within seconds.”
“Oh.” JaVale said. “Can you at least do some experiments on me to make me into a better basketball player?”
Now the alien turned yellow. A positive sign? It was hard to tell. “Yes, human. We would be pleased to do that for you, as you have shown yourself to be an intelligent and wise ambassador for your kind. Please follow me to the experimentation room and one of our scientists will make the requested genetic adjustments.”
“Thanks! Thank you!” JaVale yelled at the receding starship. He was standing back outside the Staples Center.
Although the aliens were now far away from him, he could hear their message back to him: “Thank you, JaVale! We will always think highly of the human race!” With a big smile on his face, he walked back to the locker room. There, he saw that his radio was still turned on. He switched it off.
“You ready for the game, man?” LeBron asked, clapping him on the back.
JaVale nodded. “More than you’ll ever know.”