Josh is the 12-year-old narrator of The Crossover. His two loves are family and basketball, and his life is full of opportunities to combine them. For example, his dad, a former college player, has trained Josh ever since he could hold a basketball. Along with his brother Jordan, Josh plays on a highly competitive team with the potential to dominate the championships.
Josh’s confidence shines through when he describes his basketball skills. He’s a forward with a fantastic crossover, and his skills earn him the nickname “Filthy McNasty” (a moniker he hates at first but eventually embraces.) His confidence translates into success on the court, and he anticipates a college and NBA career.
However, Josh isn’t just a basketball player. He’s passionate about music, particularly his dad’s oldies and contemporary rap artists, particularly Lil Wayne. His love for rhythm is evident in his poems, which often mimic the fast and frenetic pace of a basketball game. He’s dedicated to school, even though some classes, especially math, give him a bit of trouble. Above all, Josh's defining characteristic is his love for his family. Josh enjoys his brother’s company before than anyone else’s, even though Jordan can be too much of jokester sometimes. He's close with both his mom and dad, and he treasures his time with them.
Josh can be insecure. At the beginning of the novel, he’s proud of his looks, particularly his dreadlocks. After he loses them because of a bad bet with Jordan, he’s devastated. He’s also not as suave and self-assured as Jordan, who’s more able to talk with girls and branch out from his family circle. Josh can also be temperamental. During a regular game, he lets his temper get the best of him and viciously whips the ball at Jordan’s face. This estranges the two boys for a long time.
Jordan "JB" Bell
Jordan is Josh’s twin brother. Though the boys share some similarities, Jordan is definitely his own person, and he’s committed to making sure Josh knows that. Jordan and Josh have a strong bond on and off the court; however, Jordan is comfortable striking out on his own. While Josh values family time over everything else, Jordan often prioritizes his own fun. For example, Jordan loves making bets, particularly high-stakes ones. Though he’s passionate about basketball, he’s not as committed to improving his game as his twin brother. When given the chance, he’d prefer to hang out with his new girlfriend, “Miss Sweet Tea.” He refuses to speak to Josh for a long time after Josh's aggression, but the two reconcile after Dad's death.
Dad/Chuck "Da Man" Bell
Dad is a former superstar basketball player who now works as a stay-at-home dad. He was a phenom in college, played exceptionally well in the Olympics, and led his European League team to victory as a rookie. He was invited to try out for the LA Lakers. However, he declined the opportunity because, in order to keep playing basketball, he would have been required to have knee surgery. Mr. Bell is deathly afraid of doctors. Despite not trying out for the Lakers, he’s semi-famous, particularly amongst the basketball aficionados who pester him for autographs.
He is a dedicated father who believes strongly in his sons’ potential. Like Dr. Bell, he comes to every game and cheers voraciously for his sons. He’s as much of a factor in their basketball careers as their coaches. He texts them inspiration and basketball tips, and every day, he makes time to play with them in their backyard, their community center, or the gym at the rec center.
Mr. Bell does not prioritize his own needs. Because of past negative experiences with doctors, he refuses to make a medical appointment even when he begins experiencing worrisome dizzy spells. Furthermore, he’s stubborn. Even though his family has a history of hypertension, he continues to eat unhealthily despite his wife’s best efforts to improve his diet.
Dr. Crystal Bell is Jordan and Josh’s mom. Dr. Bell is a caring mother who encourages her sons and keeps them on the right track. She comes to every game, even though she doesn’t have the same passion for basketball as her husband and sons. She’s an assistant principal at her sons’ school. This makes her a strict disciplinarian, particularly when Josh ends up in her office. Dr. Bell shows her love for her husband through her increasing concern for his health. Though he brushes off her worries, she tries her best to make him realize the seriousness of his medical scares.
Alexis is Jordan’s first girlfriend. She captures his attention on the first day of school, and their relationship fuels the conflict between the Bell brothers for most of the novel. Josh describes her as "pulchritudinous," a sophisticated word for attractive. He also dubs her “Miss Sweet Tea,” a dismissive nickname that shows how much he dislikes her new power over his brother. She’s a new student at the brothers’ school, she is good at basketball, her parents are divorced, and she always wears pink Reeboks. After Chuck dies, she reaches out to Josh and it is presumed they might be friends.
The boys' close friend and team member on the Wildcats. Vondie is friendly and funny. He also gets a girlfriend, which makes Josh jealous.
The Wildcats' coach. He is stern but kind, and he encourages Josh to make amends with his brother because when he was younger he had a falling-out with his own brother.
Dad's mother. She normally cooks Thanksgiving dinner but she was injured falling off her porch; so, this year, Uncle Bob takes over.
Dad's brother who "smokes cigars" and "thinks he is a chef" because he watches Food TV makes a Thanksgiving dinner for the family that turns out disastrously.
The Crossover Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Crossover is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Jordan is Josh’s twin brother. Though the boys share some similarities, Jordan is definitely his own person, and he’s committed to making sure Josh knows that.Though Jordan and Josh have a strong bond on and off the court, However, Jordan is...