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HOW IMMANUEL QUICKLEY BECAME THE EXCITING NEW NAME AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Immanuel Quickley stared at the court. In front of him stood his new teammates, his new coaches. Excitement welled up inside him. It was his first practice as an NBA player—as a New York Knick. Quickley had dreamed of being here ever since he was a fifth-grader playing rec ball, back when his mother and coach, Nitrease, told him to take it easy on the other kids. “I’m going to need you to not take the ball from them,” she told him one game during a timeout. Quickley returned to the court and snatched the ball from the player he was guarding. He was just as persistent that fall afternoon in 2020, as his first Knicks practice began. The coaches quickly divided up players for teams. But when they got to Quickley, they handed him a green-colored jersey, which signified that he would be relegated to the third—and potentially even fourth—practice squad. Green? Really?

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The Trade That Completed Derrick White—and Maybe the Celtics

Derrick White didn’t see it coming. It was just hours before the NBA’s trade deadline, a notoriously nerve-racking day. A friend asked White whether he thought he’d get traded, but White shook off the thought. Besides, he was starting to find his groove, averaging career numbers as the San Antonio Spurs’ starting shooting guard. He was sitting in his hotel room, as he and his teammates were beginning a long road trip. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called White to meet. Something shifted in White. He didn’t have the best feeling. He knew something was up. “Pop’s coming to my room,” he called and told his wife, Hannah. “I don’t know what this means.”

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THE DETERMINATION OF DESTINY

Destiny Littleton closes her eyes. Clears her head. The lights dim as the national anthem starts to play. She tells herself to stay ready. Whether you play a lot, a little, or none at all, be a great teammate, she thinks to herself. Believe in yourself, hit shots, and be you. As the game gets underway, she watches and waits from the bench. She cheers and claps. Minutes pass. Sometimes, the entire first half. She doesn’t know when she’ll be called into the game. Some games her number isn’t called much at all. But when it is, she has to be on. Even if she has sat all game, her arms and legs turning completely cold—she has to deliver.South Carolina coach Dawn Staley counts on Littleton to come in and nail a big 3. Get a stop. Energize her teammates.

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Sylvia Fowles’s Final Ride and the Last Days of a Legend

Sylvia Fowles won’t let the sun catch her. She rises early each morning, the sky still dark and hazy. She doesn’t set an alarm; her body instinctively knows when to wake. She takes a seat on her Pilates mat, shuts her eyes, and meditates. The room is quiet, but her mind is stirring. “Patience,” she thinks. “How can I be patient with myself and with others, if things don’t go my way?” She breathes in, breathes out, concentrating on each inhale, exhale. When her mind drifts to the challenges of this season—her 15th and final WNBA campaign, and arguably her toughest yet—she lets the thoughts come and go.

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WHAT MAKES PATRICK BEVERLEY TICK

Patrick Beverley had to stay awake. His mom was counting on him. He was eight years old, sitting in the passenger seat of her green Ford Tempo. She had pulled off the road, finding a vacant spot on a side street on the West Side of Chicago. The sky was dark. Blue-black. Lisa Beverley had just finished her overnight shift. Third job of the day. She and Patrick didn’t have much, so Lisa worked constantly: at a phone company, painting nails, babysitting. Every day, she’d keep from collapsing by telling herself: If I don’t make it, we don’t make it. I can’t fail my son. She turned off the engine, and Patrick climbed onto her lap. She hugged him tightly, his tiny body melting into the curves of hers. But he was worried. He could feel the tired on her. He didn’t want the tired anywhere near her. “OK, now you look at the clock,” she told him. “When the clock says this number, you wake Mommy up, OK? I just need some sleep so we can make it home. Help Mommy drive, OK?”
Patrick nodded, watching her eyelids slowly roll to a close. “OK, Mommy.” He began to stare at the clock, eyes open. Wide. Two white lights in a bleak, starless night.

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THE REASON JAE’SEAN TATE HAS DEFIED THE NAYSAYERS

Every day on the bus ride to elementary school, 8-year-old Jae’Sean Tate would clasp his hands, tuck his head down, and pray to God: Please don’t let me get in trouble today. Please let me be good today.
After arriving, he’d calmly walk into his classroom, find a seat, and think to himself: I’m not going to get in trouble today. I’m going to be good today. And then, the anger would swell inside him, threatening to boil over. Teachers would wonder why he’d randomly start disrupting class, distracting fellow students, and throwing tantrums. He’d get in trouble so often he’d have to eat lunch with a school counselor. The principal’s office had a designated chair for him.
He didn’t want to get in trouble. He wanted to be good. He wanted to be seen for what he was: a loving, hard-working, studious boy. What he wanted most, however, was to not hurt anymore. To not break down. His classmates didn’t know about the sadness that lay underneath his hardened shell. Jae’Sean didn’t want to talk to anyone about where his pain came from.

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THE LAMELO SHOW

The doors swing open. The boy with the floppy blond curls rushes into Prienai Arena. A group of Lithuanian teens, who arrived 60 minutes before tipoff, scurry over to get a closer look, but the boy ignores them. He’s locked in his own world as he spots two stone-faced security guards looking on from just outside the locker room. The boy, sporting a pair of black headphones and a Big Baller Brand sweatsuit, grins. It’s his time. Sixteen-year-old LaMelo Ball clutches an imaginary rock. Dipping his shoulders left, then right, he rushes toward the two security guards and crosses over both men. But a few seconds later, I watch fans abandon LaMelo for the man from whom he gets his smile. Here comes LaVar Ball.

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DID ONE HIT LEAD TO A 13-YEAR-OLD’S SUICIDE?

After the game, on the way home, Greg noticed blood on James’ ear. The lobe was smashed and the skin had an abrasion. Later that night, James told Greg he had his “bell rung.” He also told his father it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. “Oh, I’ve gotten my bell rung before,” James said. “What?” Greg asked. “What do you mean?” “I’ve had my bell rung before,” James replied, nonchalantly, as if it were as common as running a route or completing a pass. “I’ve been hit so hard I’ve seen stars before.”

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WHAT MAKES PATRICK BEVERLEY TICK

Patrick Beverley had to stay awake. His mom was counting on him. He was eight years old, sitting in the passenger seat of her green Ford Tempo. She had pulled off the road, finding a vacant spot on a side street on the West Side of Chicago. The sky was dark. Blue-black. Lisa Beverley had just finished her overnight shift. Third job of the day. She and Patrick didn’t have much, so Lisa worked constantly: at a phone company, painting nails, babysitting. Every day, she’d keep from collapsing by telling herself: If I don’t make it, we don’t make it. I can’t fail my son. She turned off the engine, and Patrick climbed onto her lap. She hugged him tightly, his tiny body melting into the curves of hers. But he was worried. He could feel the tired on her. He didn’t want the tired anywhere near her. “OK, now you look at the clock,” she told him. “When the clock says this number, you wake Mommy up, OK? I just need some sleep so we can make it home. Help Mommy drive, OK?”
Patrick nodded, watching her eyelids slowly roll to a close. “OK, Mommy.” He began to stare at the clock, eyes open. Wide. Two white lights in a bleak, starless night.