Meyers Leonard opened his eyes from sleep, which was strange in the first place, because he didn’t remember having fallen asleep. He remembered the game ending, and thinking the season was over, and then…nothing. His last memory was of walking off the court.
The second strange thing was that he was somewhere that definitely was not the Moda center. It appeared to be a shopping mall. A shopping mall completely devoid of customers, despite the pure sunlight streaming through the skylights indicating that it was midday or close to it. The only sound was of light pop music being piped through unseen speakers.
Very, very strange, Meyers thought to himself as he took a tentative step forward, half expecting the floor to be an immaterial illusion existing only in his mind. But the first step was on solid ground, as was the second, and the third. If this was a dream, it was a very convincing one. The only thing that gave it away was the fact that all the stores had signs above them, but when he focused on them, the signs never quite formed actual words, just indistinct neon blobs that could have been words.
Walking down the deserted halls, Meyers wondered why his brain was doing this to him. Was this some kind of coping mechanism? Was he so devastated by the loss to the Warriors that he had retreated to a comforting scene of childhood nostalgia that was almost a parody? He didn’t feel particularly devastated, so he supposed that the coping mechanism was doing its job perfectly. Maybe he could just walk around the mall forever, browsing the strangely brandless merchandise that could never be purchased and listening to the relaxing music.
Except, now that Meyers listened closer, he could hear a Justin Bieber song playing in the background. His brows furrowed and his lip curled in disgust. Maybe the Bieber was the punishment his psyche had decide upon for not playing well in the second half. Or something.
Some time passed. Meyers rode the escalator up to the second floor of shops, not bothering to go into any of them, just enjoying the ambiance. However, as he passed one store in particular, he seemed to be drawn towards it. He looked up at the sign, which was in a red cursive script, but, again, he couldn’t read it. So he entered without knowing what to expect.
It was a collector’s shop. Miniatures of this and that were arrayed on shelves, and in the back there was a section for sports cards. But what really caught his eye was what was behind the front counter.
A man. Waving at him.
“Meyers, you finally made it!” said the older gentleman with a big smile. “I never thought I’d get to meet you!”
“Um, who are you?” Meyers asked. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he chastised himself for being so rude. Being trapped in a mall of the mind was not an excuse for forgetting his manners.
“Bob Netolicky,” answered the man. When Meyers made no indication that he recognized the name, Bob continued, “The original handsome, sweet-shooting big man.”
This additional information didn’t help Meyers, but he figured that, given the man’s assumed age, he would have played basketball in the late sixties or early seventies. He also realized that he had just been indirectly paid a compliment. “Uh, I’m glad to carry on the proud legacy that you started. I guess.”
Bob cupped his hands to his mouth. “Justin, get out here!” he called towards the back of the store. “Justin wants to meet you too,” Bob explained. “It’s been lonely here waiting for you to arrive.”
When Justin Bieber came out of the back room and walked towards them, Meyers thought that the dream would end right there. But it didn’t. The music, Bieber’s music, had just gotten louder, like a wrestler’s entrance to the ring. “Man, I thought you’d never show up,” Justin said.
“I didn’t know my presence was so coveted,” Meyers replied.
“Only when you truly reached your potential on the court could the prophecy be fulfilled,” Bob continued.
The positive feelings that the mall emanated were darkening. Meyers didn’t want to be part of a prophecy. “Okay, this is getting really weird. Can I go back to reality now?”
“We must lay hands upon him!” Justin exclaimed. “Quick, before he escapes!” He placed both of his palms on Meyer’s chest.
“THE COMBINED ESSENCE OF BOB NETOLICKY AND JUSTIN BIEBER NOW ENTERS YOUR IMMORTAL SOUL!” Bob intoned as Meyers tried to get away. “THE MAN KNOWN AS MEYERS LEONARD IS NO MORE, REPLACED BY…BIEBOLICKY!!!!” Then he, too, placed his hands on Meyers’ chest.
At that moment, the mall vanished, and everything went black.
“Meyers? You alright man?” asked Evan Turner, who was waving his hand in front of Meyers’ face. They were in the sad, subdued Blazers’ locker room.
“No, I’m not alright,” Meyers answered. “I’m…Biebolicky.”