His best friend
The noise and the silence in one second and eight tenths. The noise of the supporters that whistle against you, the noise of the opponents who call the defence, the noise of the ball that slips in the basket, the noise of the final siren. And the, silence. Silence of those supporters who whistled against you and of those opponents who bow their heads and stare at the locker rooms.
What you have left is the hug between yours, the winning score and an outstanding record.
Russel Westbrook puts together 42 triple-doubles in just one season and it is certified the 9th of April 2017 in the game won when the clock stroke zero against Denver. TRIPLE-DOUBLE. You think about it and put together the score, assists and dribbles in a number… doubled. Exactly. Not that easy to do. You think about it better and realise how insane it is to manage to do it in 42 games. That writing it in letters is even more impressive. You think about it. But…what about him? What is he thinking? The record, ok. The joy brought by the moment, great. The eternal glory, good. Yet he he’s not thinking about this. Russel Westbrook stares at his wrists and sees his soft plastic bracelets. On the orange one there are some light blue words which say “WHY NOT?” and there are two letters and a number KB3. On the white one, instead, there is the sense of everything and you read it RIP KHELCEY. There you go, he thinks about something else. About another.
Russell and Khelcey live in the same street at Howthorne, in California. One facing the other. The first one lives with his parents and moved from Los Angeles when he was twelve years old. The second one, instead, is under his grandmother’s control. The first one is two years younger than the second but they are inseparable. In particular when you are speaking about basket. They fight each other virtually at NBA Street with the Game Cube and pass the ball in real life with the Leuzinger High School’s jersey.
Let’s point out, though, the roles of this story. Barrs Khelcey is sixteen years old and is almost 6 ft tall, in his room he has Kevin Garnett’s poster and in his backyard he tries to imitate the Timberwolves’ star. The boy is a legend of high schools, different colleges already offered him scholarships but he dreams only UCLA. He loves dancing and is particularly inclined to jokes. He catalyses everyone's sympathies, he is well appreciated. He is a charismatic leader. He loves his sister Chelcey and he walks her to school every single day. He loves his younger brother Joseph and he falls asleep in a microscopic bed close to him every night although he has his own room (and a bed…). Russell, instead, is fourteen and is still a gracile boy. He’s pretty good at playing basketball but nothing makes foretell his star future. He is an introvert by nature, but turns out to be a good student. Yes, he’s Barrs’ opposite. Yet their friendship grows and strengthens day by day until the two make a iron pact: Russell will help Barrs to improve his grades and Barrs will help Russell to make is basketball better. The results are extraordinary. At the end of the school year, the local basketball star brings his Grade Point Average up to 3.0 and the silent boy arrives super close to enter the basic quintet of the team.
The 11th of May of 2004, the Leuzinger High School’s coach brings, as every thursday, his best players in the Los Angeles Southwest College for a series of training games organised on three close courts. On the first two there are adults, formed players. On the third one instead, there is space for the less “evolved” basketball wise. Needless to say that Khelcey rules between the adults. They play four games for each field and, at the end on the fourth, Barrs chats with his teammates before going to shower. Russell, instead, has ended his games and is already home. When the tall man falls slowly to the floor of the gym, everyone is thinking it’s about one of his jokes. But the boy doesn’t stand back again and, in that moment everyone panics. Barrs feels better and says to his friends around him: “Hey! What’s up with all this movement?”. These are his last few words. He closes his eyes once again and dies at Centinela Hospital Medical Center of Inglewood. A serious heart hypertrophy, they say. A disturb no one knew he suffered of. Neither himself. Not even Russell could have known…his best friend.
Here we lead to the end of this story. Westbrook is left without his role model and puts himself at the absolute beck and call for his friend’s family: he runs every single errand Barrs did for his grandmother and completely takes care of his brothers, to the point that every week he also washes Marilyn’s hair. But, most of all, he changes his life deciding to live Khelcey’s dream. He starts to push as much possible in every single training and builds, step by step his title of MVP in NBA taking advantage of the scholarship offered by the well dreamed UCLA. All of this without ever forgetting his one and only inspiration. He brings his friend’s name everywhere. Starting from shoes to bracelets on which he writes KB3 to remember himself his initials and his team number. And writes “WHY NOT?” to remember himself that everything is possible if you desire it with strong determination. But, most of all, he brings his friend inside his own heart. That heart which messed with Barrs but which now beats strong for him in Russel Westbrook’s chest.