Up in the Airball
Up In the Airball
An unproduced screenplay by Sean Keane
(RYAN BINGHAM enters the Minnesota Timberwolves locker room, wearing a Quentin Richardson Clippers jersey. He shakes hands with Minnesota GM DAVID KAHN)
KAHN: Thank you for coming. How was your trip?
RYAN: I’ve been to New York, D.C., Charlotte, Chicago, Houston, Sacramento, Dallas, and Los Angeles, and this the last stop. I thought we could pick up some extra frequent-flyer miles swinging by Phoenix, but Steve Kerr couldn’t pull the trigger on a deal. (KAHN winces)
KAHN: I can relate. OK, he’s right over there. (KAHN gestures to journeyman forward Brian Cardinal, sitting alone in front of his locker.)
(RYAN approaches CARDINAL)
RYAN: Mr. Cardinal, this is your last day here with the Timberwolves. You’ve been traded to the Knicks. But more importantly, this is the first day of the rest of your life.
BRIAN CARDINAL: I’m being traded? And David Kahn didn’t have the balls to tell me himself?
RYAN: We both know he’s a terrible GM. But this is not a time to look for blame. Your contract is simply expiring. Every player who ever won an NBA title sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they ultimately became a champion.
RYAN: Well, not Michael Jordan. Or Kobe Bryant. Or Bill Russell, or Larry Bird…
RYAN: …or David Robinson, or Magic Johnson, or Isiah Thomas…
CARDINAL: OK, I get it.
RYAN: …or James Worthy, or Tim Duncan, or Sasha Vujacic…
CARDINAL: Now you’re just rubbing it in. What am I supposed to do - warm the bench in New York?
RYAN: Here, take this packet. It contains details on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a Chinese endorsement contract for Starbury shoes, and directions to the nearest Cheesecake Factory in your new city.
CARDINAL: What am I supposed to tell my kids?
RYAN: Mr. Cardinal, your children’s admiration is important to you?
CARDINAL: What are you, a sports psychologist?
RYAN: Kids love basketball players because they follow their dreams. But you’re playing nine minutes a game for a horrible team. Look, your resume says you were a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. You hit 44% of your three-pointers in 2004. You should be leading a Eastern European team to the playoffs, not warming the bench in Minneapolis. How much did they pay you to give up on your dream?
CARDINAL: $45 million over seven years.
RYAN: When are you - wait, $45 million? Seriously? I mean, a seven-year deal for YOU?
CARDINAL: Hey asshole, aren’t you here to console me?
RYAN: Was Jerry West drunk? OK, but your contract’s up. Go to Latvia. Make your children proud.
CARDINAL: (takes the packet. He’s a changed man.) Thank you.
(DAVID KAHN approaches.)
KAHN: I don’t know how to thank you, Ryan. Can I fly you out to Spain to talk to Ricky Rubio?
RYAN: Sorry, but this is my last job, ever. David Stern has decided that in the future, we’re going to do all this by computer.
KAHN: Like, face-to-face teleconferencing?
RYAN: No, we’ll just announce trades on Chad Ford’s Twitter.
(RYAN’s phone rings. He picks up.)
(We hear the voice of DAVID STERN)
STERN: Ryan, I’m going to need to send you out again. There’s a problem with Kenny Thomas.
RYAN: What, did he jump off a bridge or something?
STERN: Worse. He’s thinking about signing with the Warriors.
RYAN: I’m on my way!
(RYAN hangs up, zips up his small NBA on NBC tote bag, adjusts his headband and wristbands, and strides purposefully into the night.)