The narrator of the novel (which is told in verse) is Josh Bell, an 8th-grade boy. He and his twin brother Jordan—or JB—are basketball stars and are best friends on and off the court. Basketball is extremely important to them, and they both want to play professionally someday. Their father, Chuck “Da Man” Bell, was a famous basketball player back in the day, but he no longer plays because, as the boys discover when snooping through his box of memorabilia, he has patellar tendonitis. Dad is always giving them his famous “Basketball Rules” and telling stories of when they were children and could shot free throws by age three. Their mother, Dr. Crystal Bell, is the assistant principal at their school.
When the novel begins, summer is over and the new season has started. The boys are working diligently to win the championship. They pull off some fantastic wins early on.
Their parents are very supportive of the game, but Mom says Dad is too supportive because he gets too worked up. This is bad for his hypertension, and she encourages the family to eat healthily and for Dad to see a doctor. He laughs this off and claims he does not trust doctors because his father died after he went to the doctor.
There is a new girl at school with pink Reeboks who also plays basketball, and JB falls hard for her. Josh is a bit disconcerted at his brother’s lack of focus. It is clear JB wants Alexis—or “Miss Sweet Tea,” as Josh calls her because once, after a game, she offered JB some of that drink—to be his girlfriend.
Over time, Josh grows more frustrated with JB pulling away from him. At one game, this all comes to a head when Josh passes the ball extremely hard at JB’s face and almost breaks his nose. He is punished by being suspended from the team, but JB’s refusal to talk to him or accept his apology is almost worse.
While Josh is off the team and trying to make amends with JB, Dad displays more evidence of being sick. He gets a nosebleed while yelling at the referee at one of the games, and he throws up at home. Mom insists he go to the doctor and he finally agrees. However, he also decides that he has to get back on the court, so he accepts a coaching position at a local college.
Josh makes small inroads with JB after writing him a letter and trying to be patient with him. He is still a little bummed about both JB and now their friend Vondie having girlfriends as well as his not being on the team. His hope is to get back on for the playoffs. Coach comes to him and tells him he has to make things right with JB and get on the court.
One day, while everyone is at the rec center playing hoops, Dad clutches his chest and falls to the floor. Alexis calls 911; JB runs to get water, but Dad is out cold.
Dad falls into a coma because of a myocardial infarction. He might be able to hear them and the doctor thinks he will be fine, but JB is sobbing and Mom is shocked. When Josh talks to his dad privately, he bitterly wonders why his Dad jumped ship; he had thought his dad was “Da Man.”
Dad finally wakes up; he and Josh are able to talk to each other honestly, but it is very hard for him. He still feels far away from JB and does not like that Dad is living in the hospital. However, he is able to play in the championship game.
Unfortunately, on the way to the game, Mom gets a call and exclaims that Dad had another heart attack and she needs to go to the hospital. JB and Josh are not sure what to do at first, but JB leaps on his bike to follow Mom to the hospital. Josh decides to go along with Vondie and his dad to the game; he feels his father telling him to do so.
At the same time as Josh leads his team to a glorious victory, Dad passes away. Josh does not know how to deal with this. There is a funeral and during the reception at the house; Alexis calls and Josh answers. She is very kind and says she is sorry for their loss. She invites him to go with her, JB, her dad, and her sister to see Duke play. He is happy and accepts.
Josh and JB finally reconcile while out shooting free throws.