On the surface level, this quote refers to Josh's hair—his beloved dreadlocks that he feels differentiate him from others and give him power and charisma on the court. He remembers seeing Dad leaping through the air with his own dreads flying, which was an impetus for young Josh to have the same style. The fact that Dad had dreads is related to the deeper level that this quote references: Dad is going to die at the end of the novel and Josh (and JB) will need to have their own wings so they can "fly" independently of him. They will have to learn to be "Da Man" on their own.
My playing days are over, son.
My job now is to take care of this family.
Dad retired early from professional basketball and now says that his job is to take care of the family. This sounds good, of course, and Dad does provide money, support, love, quality time, basketball training, etc.—however, by the end of the novel, it is clear that Dad has failed to "take care of this family" because his own fear of doctors and inability to confront his ill health head-on meant that he ended up dying and not being able to take care of the family in many of the ways he'd promised to. Dad's death is a reminder to his sons to face their fears and heed their obligations, even when it's hard.
In interviews, Alexander has stated that the novel isn't "just" a sports novel: sports is the medium through which Alexander tells his story, but it's much more than that. The Basketball Rules, in particular, indicate how applicable the lessons of the game are to real life. In this list of verbs and adjectives, Dad appears to be giving the boys advice for the court, as the words include "run," "shoot," and "play." However, this list ultimately provides advice in a much broader way. In our lives, we have to learn to grind since things won't always be easy; we have to embrace change and learn to pivot; we have to smart about the way we live and work; we have to enjoy playing but also know that the things we want in life take practice.
are no different
from everyone else,
except we look and
Alexander captures how being a twin is an intimate and meaningful experience, but one that can also be fraught with difficulty. Josh and JB do indeed have a lot in common, and this quote sets up Josh successfully being able to pretend to be JB when on the phone with Alexis. Their bond is so deep that they often know what the other is thinking and have shared sensations. However, they are still their own people, and as JB begins to diverge and become interested in different things, their twin relationship is strained. Josh has to learn to value both their sameness and their difference.
Because you are walking home
and your brother owns the world.
One of the best things about this novel is that while it's ostensibly meant for younger readers, the emotions presented are raw and relatable, even for older readers. Josh feels jealous of his brother in a way that resonates with anyone, child or adult, who has felt jealous. Yes, we may be happy for the person we love who has something great, but we might also feel left out and as if it's unfair that we don't have what we want. Josh allows his negative thoughts to fester, which eventually leads him to lash out at JB; this is also something that readers of any age might find familiar and see as a good reminder to confront such feelings before they reach a boiling point.
the officer approaches
and asks Dad
for his driver's license
For readers of color and anyone aware of the endemic racial profiling carried out by police officers in the last several decades, this scene crackles with foreboding and discomfort. Dad is black and does not have his license: is he going to get yelled at? Will he be asked to get out of the car? Will he unfairly be accused of being aggressive or talking back? Will he be assaulted or arrested? Will his young son see this and have a firsthand glimpse of what his own future experience with the police might be? Alexander chooses not to have those things occur, but the fact that many readers expect them is his way of acknowledging the unfairness of life in America for people of color, even if they are famous in some way.
I put the broom down
wrap my arms around her,
and tell her thank you.
For loving us, and Dad, and
letting us play basketball,
and being the best mother
in the world.
Two of the most prominent themes in the text are present here: family and forgiveness. Family is of the utmost importance to Josh, and even though he messes up sometimes, his family is still there to love him, support him, and cheer him on. Forgiveness is also important in the novel. Josh has to learn to forgive himself for messing up, but, more importantly, he has to solicit and earn JB's forgiveness for his behavior. Forgiveness isn't always easily earned or given, but in a strong and mutually sustaining family, it may just happen with more celerity.
I say, What about
doughnuts and fried chicken and genetics?
The stereotype about teenagers is that they're selfish, consumed by their own lives, and are oblivious to what is going on around them. Alexander challenges that stereotype with his character of Josh Bell, an introspective, perspicacious, and multifaceted young man. Josh has his own worries, but he's not disengaged from what is going on in his family. He listens to his parents fight; he watches Dad have health problems; he hears Mom's pleas for Dad to eat better and control his stress and anger. Thus, when the doctor tries to comfort him by telling him there's no real way to know what causes a myocardial infarction, Josh isn't having it: he knows exactly what put Dad here and he's not shying away from it.
Don't you see I need to be here so they can fix the
damage that's been done to my heart?
Who's gonna fix the damage that's been done to mine?
One of the most moving parts of the entire novel is the conversation, told in questions, between Dad and Josh. Readers, especially older readers, get the nuances Alexander is striving for: Dad is trying to be normal and optimistic, asking Josh questions like if he's going to be in the game and if JB still has a girlfriend, whereas Josh is angry, bitter, sad, and scared in turn. In the end, when Josh asks Dad when he's coming out and Dad replies with this quote, Josh retorts with his own version of heart damage. It's smart, breathtakingly sad, and pointed. Josh is telling Dad point-blank how upset he is, and there's nothing Dad can say in response.
Dad? I say.
I open my eyes,
and there is my brother.
I thought you were—
Yeah, I know, he says.
At the end of the novel, Josh is alone with the ball and his thoughts, communing with Dad as he shoots free throws. For a brief second, he thinks he sees Dad, but it is actually JB. This is more than just an authorial device to induce the reader's sympathy: in many ways, the boys truly are their father. They have inherited his skills, his charisma, his energy, and his zest for the sport and life. They represent aspects of his personality in terms of love of the game and love of family. They are twins, collectively constituting a unity that can be seen as a version of Dad. However, Josh isn't actually seeing Dad: he's seeing JB, and JB is his own person, as Josh is. The boys have learned and will continue to learn that while they are like Dad, they're not actually him. They can learn from Dad's mistakes and go on to be their own people.
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...