The doctor tells Mom and the boys that Dad is in a coma because his myocardial infarction caused some complications, but he should be fine. Josh can’t believe he’s here; he should be getting ready to play in the semifinals. Why is he watching JB hold Dad’s hand and talk to him when he can’t listen?
Myocardial infarction: the blood flow to an area of the heart is blocked for so long that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies.
The doctor sees Josh googling it and tells him they can’t be sure of what caused it; Josh shoots back that doughnuts, genetics, and fried food are sure to do so.
This is what Grandpop died of—so, what does that mean for Josh and JB?
Josh consents to sit and talk to Dad. He’s upset, though, and he asks Dad bitterly when he jumped ship, saying that he thought he was Da Man. As for himself, he won’t miss the game for a “maybe.”
Mom, since you asked, I’ll tell you why I’m so angry
Josh tells Mom why he's angry: because Dad tried to dunk; because Josh wants to play the championship but he can’t if he’s here; because Dad said he’d be here forever; because Jordan doesn’t talk about basketball anymore and only cares about Miss Sweet Tea; because Josh feels empty with no hair; because CPR doesn’t work; because Dad wouldn’t have had the ball if Josh’s crossover had been better.
Text Messages from Vondie
Vondie tells Josh that the game went into double-overtime; they did a special chant on the sideline and they ended up winning, dedicating the game to Dad.
On Christmas Eve
Dad wakes up. He smiles at Mom, high-fives JB, and tells Josh he didn’t jump ship.
Santa Claus Stops By
The hospital room is filled with presents, food, and relatives. Josh can’t remember the last time he smiled.
After a couple of hours, everyone leaves; Dad calls JB and Josh over to his bed. He starts telling the boys that they have to be there for each other. Jordan begins crying and Mom takes him out. Dad and Josh look at each other, saying nothing for ten minutes. Dad tells him that silence doesn’t mean there’s nothing to say—rather, it’s that they’re trying not to say it. He says that he will ask Josh a question and then vice versa until they’re both out.
Dad’s questions are about if Josh has practiced and if Jordan is still with Alexis; Josh’s are about if their family is falling apart, if Dad knows the championship game is tomorrow, and why Dad still calls him Filthy. When Dad asks Josh whether he can see that Dad needs to be here so they can fix the damage done to his heart, Josh replies that he wonders who will fix the damage to his own heart.
Tanka for Language Arts Class
This was not a merry Christmas and there is no joy in the new year. Dad’s been in the hospital for nineteen days and counting. Josh can’t get used to doing everything alone now that JB is in love and Dad’s in the hospital.
Basketball Rule #9
“When the game is on / the line, / don’t fear. / Grab the ball. / Take it / to the hoop” (214).
As we’re about to leave for the final game
Mom gets a phone call and shrieks. Dad had had another heart attack, and she is going to the hospital right now. She says she’ll see them at the game and drives off. JB is crying; Josh watches him run out of their room and jump on his bike and follow Mom.
Josh can hear the clock ticking. He can hear his dad saying he needs to play. He gets in Vondie’s dad’s car and they pull out to go to the game.
Josh misses a few shots and Coach asks if he is sure he wants to be here; Josh assures him he does. He goes to the locker room and checks his phone for texts from Mom.
Text Messages from Mom, Part Two
Mom says via text that Dad is having complications but he wishes them good luck and he loves Josh. Jordan does not feel like playing, but Mom is sending him to watch the game. She tells Josh to look for him and not get lazy on his crossover.
The team is up and everything seems in slow motion. Coach calls a time out and there are only five seconds to go. Josh wishes the ref could stop the clock on his life. He needs just one more game, but his father is dying. He sees Jordan’s face, which his brother buries in Miss Sweet Tea. He is sobbing. The whistle blows; the clock is running down.
The Last Shot
The crowd is rumbling, rustling, and roaring. Josh is soaring to the hoop. He’s a bolt of lightning; he’s Filthy McNasty doing a McNasty cross. His shot is flowing, flying, and fluttering; finally, it swishes. Game over!
Article #2 in the Daily News (January 14)
The article states that Chuck “Da Man” Bell died from a massive heart attack while at the hospital. He had an enlarged, scarred heart and apparently refused to see a doctor. He was known for his dazzling crossover. He was thirty-nine. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Josh is unprepared for death; he cannot play this game. It has no rules and no referees. At the funeral, he hears funny stories from Dad’s teammates, Mom crying, and the choir singing. Mom will not look at the coffin. Josh and JB each grab one of her hands.
This is the Los Angeles Lakers beating the starless Portland Trailblazers—but it is also the fact that each night is starless since Dad, the light of Josh’s world, is gone.
Basketball Rule #10
“A loss is inevitable, / like snow in winter. / True champions / learn / to dance / through / the storm” (230).
There are so many friends
Everyone is packed into the living room for the reception; the air is filled with laughter, jazz, and the smells of pie. Mom asks Josh to get the phone. He answers it; it is Alexis. She says she is sorry she could not be at the funeral. He tells her that he is Josh, not JB, and she laughs that she knows—his voice sounds slower, as if he were just waking up. He laughs for the first time in a long time. She continues that she is sorry for his loss and tells him to let her know if there’s anything she and her Dad can do. Then, she tells him that she has five tickets to the Duke-North Carolina game; she, her sister, Dad, and JB are going—would he want to go, too? Elated, he says yes and thanks her.
Coach Hawkins hugs Josh tightly when he gets off the phone. Josh heads out for fresh air. He hasn’t seen JB since the funeral.
Dad once made fifty free throws in a row, so Josh decides to try for the same. He starts naming the shots—the years of his life with Dad, to start. On the forty-ninth, he is only slightly aware of how close he is. He feels closer to Dad, and that is all that matters.
Someone asks if he feels better and he opens his eyes. For a moment it looks like Dad, but it’s Jordan.
Jordan tells him "good game" and that his crossover was wicked. Josh thanks him and asks if he’s seen the trophy. JB nods. Josh begins to ask if Dad said anything before… he trails off. JB replies that Dad said to stay out of his closet but that he needed to give Filthy this. He holds out the championship ring.
Josh is crying and asks why. JB replies that he guesses Filthy is Da Man now—but, for the first time in his life, Josh does not want to be.
JB starts walking away and calls out that he bets the dishes Josh won’t make fifty. Josh calls back that “We Da Man” (237), and when JB turns around, he tosses him the ball. He dribbles and fixes his eyes on the goal. The ball leaves his hands and flies into the air, crossing over them.
Dad’s reluctance to seek out medical attention for his hypertension eventually leads to the tragic ending of the novel. Josh and JB grapple with what a genetic predisposition to hypertension means for them at the same time that they see that Dad let his fear of doctors get in the way of taking care of himself. Now he is gone, and the boys have to grow up without a father. Dad’s “Basketball Rules,” the memoires, and the parts of him that live on in the boys will still be there, but Chuck’s loss is deeply felt by the characters and the reader.
By the end of the novel, it seems clear that Josh and Jordan are images of their father, Chuck. They are both manifestations of Chuck's identity. This becomes obvious when one remembers that they are twins. In literature, twins often function as a dyad of a single identity. In this case, Jordan represents Chuck's desire for home and family, while Josh is his competitive spirit and longing for the game. Both of them are fulfilling their father's legacy, even if only Josh is likely to be a successful athlete. In their own unique ways, they are imbued with the spirit of their father, so it's important for Josh to finish the championship game, and it's important for Jordan to see his dad one last time in the hospital. Although they approach life differently, they are both fulfilling their destinies and making good choices.
The championship game is a climactic moment when Josh is back on the court, triumphing and regaining his former sense of self, while his father is dying in the hospital. Mom’s text messages symbolically allude to Dad’s death when the word “crossover” exists as its own text: while Josh is doing the crossover on the court, Dad is “crossing over” into the afterlife. While the family is mourning the loss of Dad, Josh and JB’s relationship is healing. By setting up the plot in this way, Alexander is reminding readers that the good and bad things in life—pleasure and pain, wins and losses—often exist coterminously.
So—as this novel is an example of a bildungsroman, to an extent—who is Josh by the end? What has he learned? To begin, Josh now sees how his own jealousy and antipathy towards change led him to the behavior that harmed his relationship with his brother. He learned how to pay penance and what it takes to atone for a mistake of that severity. He learned to embrace, albeit painfully, the changes in the family dynamic: he cannot do everything with JB; they are growing up; Dad is now gone. He has grappled with who he is, how he defines himself, what he wants, and what he values. He is trying to process loss. He is trying to process what he has inherited from Dad vs. who he is on his own.