My friends and I were discussing the NBA Playoffs the other day and someone posed a contentious question: could we score a single point against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a full game? The gap between professionals and amateurs is much, much wider than the average person realizes. The game is quicker, the opponents are bigger, and everything involved is just harder to accomplish. But this wasn’t about beating professional athletes. Nobody’s asking us to win a championship; nobody in the history of the world has been stupid enough to think I would ever win a championship at anything, except maybe drinking hot chocolate, or reading historical fiction novels. No, the question is if we could score just a single point. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people out there believe themselves capable of scoring at least one point in this situation. It’s only one point! In 48 minutes? The law of averages is on your side. If Air Bud can lead a team of 12 year olds to score 83 points, surely you could lead a team of functioning adult humans to hit one friggin’ basket. Even if a game against the Cavs was somehow set up, a “Pros vs. Joes” type of scenario, certainly the Cavs would get bored enough to allow the Joes to score one basket, yes? LeBron James would definitely let us score a point. I’ve seen his Sprite commercials, I’ve seen him high five his kids after games, he’s a nice dude. LeBron James wears some cool ass hats, and people who wear cool hats are rarely mean people.
In reality, I’d have to agree with that assessment; LeBron and Co. are too nice to go out there and serve a 200-0 beat down to a bunch of average guys. But this is a hypothetical. So in the interest of making this the most ridiculous hypothetical situation ever, let’s lay out this scenario:
If the Pros keep the Joes to 0 points:
- $5,000,000 to each player
- $1,000 to each fan
If the Joes score 1 or more points:
- Entire pot split between team
- Get to punch LeBron in the face
That’s a lot of money. LeBron and Co. may be rich, but if keeping a group of losers off the board for 48 minutes gets them $5 million, I think they’re going to try their hardest. As for the fans; people lose their minds for a free hot dog. I once saw a grown man push a kid out of the way to catch a free t-shirt. People would be out of control at this event.
Now, to your prize: if you guys score a point, just ONE point, your team splits the whole pot. The Cavs go home with nothing, the fans go home with nothing, and you go home a very rich person. You also get to punch LeBron in the face, no questions asked. And given LeBron’s size, your team would likely be the only people in the world to have done this.
That being said, getting shut out in front of millions of people – obviously this game would be televised, it’d be must-see TV – and shut out in such a dominating fashion, would be extremely embarrassing. I doubt you’d ever live it down. How could you look your father-in-law in the face after he’s seen Kevin Love dunk on you and dangle his nuts in your face? I couldn’t. I’d die a lonely, defeated man. But anyway. You’ve heard the pitch, you know the stakes; would you be willing to do this?
Let me set the stage for you. You arrive at Quicken Loans arena in your “not run down enough to be embarrassing but also not nice enough to give anybody the impression that you’re really successful” car, something like a Toyota Corolla. Don’t get me wrong, a Toyota Corolla is a very respectable car to own. But it’s not like you pull up to take a girl on a first date and she’s texting her friends “holy shit, he drives a COROLLA!” Nobody is watching you get into your beige Corolla after work and thinking, “wow, I want what that guy’s got.”
LeBron pulls up next to you in his Escalade or tank or airplane or whatever he owns, and as he gets out of his car you begin to fully realize what an enormous human being he is. He’s like a tree come to life, a big basketball loving tree who has a slightly receding hairline and who loves Sprite more than you love your dog. He could wrestle a bear. He could beat the living shit out of your dad. He could jump over your stupid Toyota Corolla.
This man comes up to you, and after spitting on the ground at your feet, says he’s going to “wipe the floor with you,” and calls you a punk ass bitch. Up until now, this has been a “this is going to be fun” kind of idea to you, something you’ll be able to look back on and tell your grandkids about. Maybe you’ve even been cautiously optimistic about the whole ordeal. You think that maybe, just maybe, you hit a three pointer or two and make a bit of a name for yourself. “I played a real basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and I sank a couple of threes!” Now, LeBron James has made you realize that you are, in fact, a punk ass bitch. Quite apart from hoping to hit a basket, you’re now focused entirely on escaping this game without incurring significant bodily harm. You have to play 48 effing minutes? Against THAT?
You head into the arena and see that there are cardboard cutouts of the faces of you and your teammates being distributed by vendors in the parking lot. There’s a crowd on the sidewalk just outside of the queue to get in, and at the center is a father encouraging his daughter as she swings at a piñata in the shape of your head. Any hope of help from the security guards is dispelled as you walk by a group of them encouraging the piñata beatdown; a number of them are crying with mirth. As you make your way into the locker room, attempting to keep your head down, you see that a number of the cutouts already have male genitalia drawn in and around their mouths. You were prepared for some opposition, but nobody could have prepared you for this.
You finally get into the locker room, a quiet island amidst a roaring sea of people who want nothing more than to see you fail. Your friends are in there as well, having just experienced exactly what you did, their faces stricken with varying degrees of fear and shame. You guys have about an hour to devise a strategy. Despite the fact that two of you played high school basketball and a third “knows what he’s doing out there,” you can’t seem to come up with anything that will get you remotely close to the basket, given that the average size of the grown men you’re trying to score on is 6’8”, 235 lbs.
A special surprise awaits you as you head out onto the court, as the organizer of the event has placed all of your family members courtside, with your parents sitting under the hoop. Initially excited to have at least one or two friendly faces in the crowd, you realize that your dad is wearing a shirt that says, “I MADE STUPID,” with a picture of your face on it. Your mom has a cardboard cutout of your face, and while it’s mercifully free of dicks, it has “DISAPPOINTMENT” written across the forehead. They got your parents. Whatever money it took, whatever charities were given donations, whatever promises were made, you’re now facing perhaps the toughest test of your life, with your parents courtside cheering against you. Your parents also provided embarrassing biographical information about you; how many times you’ve shit your pants, the names and dates of girls or boys that shot you down, movies that make you cry, etc.; all of which is featured prominently in the game programs that have been handed out to fans, free of charge.
The game begins. As literally everyone expected, it’s an absolute massacre. From the opening tipoff, which you lose by at least two full feet, to the halftime buzzer, your team attempts all of ten shots. Five are blocked easily by LeBron. Three are heaves from your own side of the court, none of which come close the backboard. One was an extremely wild pass that the scorekeeper generously counted as a shot. The final shot of the half was surprisingly legitimate; following your last time-out of the half, one of the Cavs accidentally tripped over your teammate, which resulted in a broken nose for him and a relatively uncontested shot from just outside of three-point range for you. The shot didn’t go in, but that didn’t stop LeBron from swearing furiously at the man who missed his assignment, hurling the f-word at Tristan Thompson at the top of his voice. Your mother and father, who usually abhor that kind of language, join LeBron in booing Thompson off the court. Your mom tells LeBron that he should sit. Thompson doesn’t come back out for the second half of the game.
Nobody says much in the locker room at halftime. In an attempt to get the team going, one of your friends half-heartedly says, “we only need to score one, guys!” He’s met with silence. Outside, you hear the crowd roar as the Cavs’ mascot, which for some reason is a beagle named “Moondog,” does dunks off of a mini-trampoline. There are cheerleaders with a t-shirt cannon. The Kiss Cam lands on a guy who kisses the girl next to him and then chugs his beer. Someone hit a half-court shot, and the announcer gleefully points out that she’s beating the “Joes.” Outside, the atmosphere is electric. In here, the atmosphere resembles that of funeral of a close friend.
The second half begins, and now in addition to overcoming the vast physical superiority of your opponents, your team has to deal with the fatigue of playing a full basketball game. Sucking wind, you and your teammates have resorted to one-handed heaves from well beyond half court. You thought the fans would begin to lose interest after a while, but a message flashes across the Jumbotron that everyone gets Arby’s curly fries if the Cavs manage to put up 250 points. In response to this opportunity of even more leisure and riches, the unruliness of the crowd reaches levels usually reserved for the infields of NASCAR events. Adults and kids alike are reveling in the failure of you and your closest friends, and they’re all doing their part. Personal insults are being hurled at you from every corner of the stands. A number of fans have offered suggestions as to why your ex-girlfriend dumped you, almost all of which are concerned with what some like to call, “alone time.”
The game is finally drawing to a close. Despite getting off more shots in the second half, you and your teammates have hit the rim a grand total of twice the entire game. One of your teammates has descended into tears, which delights the merciless crowd. They’re calling him “crybaby.” A few of them inexplicably have adult diapers, which they wave with disturbing enthusiasm in your friend’s face. As LeBron throws down a between-the-legs dunk to take the Cavs over 250 points, thunderous chants of “CURLY FRIES! CURLY FRIES! CURLY FRIES!” rain down on you. The nightmare is almost over.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you somehow manage to get to the foul line. A highly unlikely proposition, as your team is completely and utterly defeated at this point. But let’s say that J.R. Smith, notorious for his mental lapses and once called “literally too stupid to be nervous,” makes a mistake and sends you to the line with 10 seconds left. The players line up, and the ref gives you the ball. Shaking with nerves, you air ball the first shot. The crowd roars with laughter. You see your mom high-five your dad.
You’ve got one shot left.
You take a deep breath and step up to the line, desperately trying to ignore the fact that you’re on national television, that you’re getting absolutely embarrassed in front of every person you’ve ever cared about, and that literally nobody in the world other than your friends is hoping that you make this. This is the one chance you have at redemption. If you make this, nobody will remember the rest of the game. You won’t be the guy whose mother revealed that he sharted his khaki pants as a 23-year-old; you’ll be the guy who scored on the Cleveland effing Cavaliers and made himself millions of dollars.
Imagine the boos and taunts of 20,000 strangers raining down upon you as you try to hit this free throw. Imagine LeBron James, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, screaming in your face to miss. Then imagine seeing your mother, her normally placid face contorted with rage, flipping you double middle fingers from behind the basket. The crowd is against you. The best basketball player in the world is against you. And the woman who brought you into this world is against you. If I were a betting man, I’d say you miss that foul shot.