Article #2 in the Daily News (January 14). The paper writes that Charlie "Da Man" Bell (Dad) collapsed in a basketball game with Josh. He suffered complications and died of a massive heart attack in the hospital. He suffered from hypertension and fainted three times in the months before he collapsed. The autopsy revealed that Dad's heart was large and scarred. Dad refused to see a doctor. As a younger man, Dad chose to end his career as a pro player rather than undergo knee surgery. He was known for his crossover and was the captain of a winning team in Italy. He's survived by his wife (Mom) and his twin sons, Josh and JB. The boys recently won their first county championship. Dad was 39.
This article memorializes Dad as a basketball legend by spending so much time on Dad's career in Italy and mentioning the crossover specifically. However, by mentioning Dad's refusal to see the doctor, the damage his heart suffered, the patellar tendinitis, and the fact that he died at 39, the paper also seeks to impress upon readers the importance of seeking medical attention for conditions like this.
Where Do We Go from Here? Josh thinks that there are no coaches or comforting game rituals at funerals. He feels unprepared for death, since there aren't rules and there’s no referee. He listens to Dad's teammates tell funny stories and thinks that the choir's songs almost cover up Mom's sobs. Mom refuses to look in the coffin. Dad is gone "like the end of a good song." JB and Josh each grab one of Mom's hands as the service ends. They step into the limo outside.
When Josh tells the reader why funerals and death are so difficult, it again shows that, like Dad, Josh relies heavily on basketball and rituals to guide his entire life. Then, by referring to Dad's death as the end of a song, he's able to pull in his love of music again to underscore that even in this time of grief, Josh is still pulling from all arenas to describe his experiences.
star-less. Josh defines "starless" as a state of being without stars. Josh says that if he and JB try out for Junior Varsity next year, the Wildcats will be starless. Last night, Josh watched the "starless" Portland Trailblazers lose to Dad's favorite team, the Lakers. Now that Dad is gone, Josh feels like his world is starless.
Because Dad was Josh's role model, Josh feels now like he has nobody living to look up to and model his behavior after. This speaks to the success Dad had in focusing his sons on basketball; Josh doesn't consider that Dad also set a poor example in terms of health.
Basketball Rule #10. Losing is inevitable, but true champions figure out how to dance through storms.
Dad would, in Josh's estimation, want him to figure out how to move on and continue to be successful.
There are so many friends. Everyone crowds into the Bells' house. Josh steps outside and listens to John Coltrane and Jay-Z coming from inside. Mom smiles and asks Josh to pick up the ringing phone. It's Miss Sweet Tea, whom Josh now calls Alexis. She apologizes for not being at the funeral, which makes Josh confirm that she knows it's him, not JB. Playfully, she says that JB is loud and Josh always sounds quiet on the phone. This makes Josh laugh. Alexis offers condolences as Josh starts to try to apologize. She cuts him off but says that her sister has tickets to see Duke play North Carolina. Before she can even vocalize the entire invitation, Josh accepts. Coach hugs Josh and knocks the phone to the floor.
The music choices mirror the musical interests of the entire Bell family, which again explains where Josh is pulling from as he tries to manipulate and form his identity. The fact that Josh refers to Alexis by her name shows that he's now ready to accept her as a fully fledged person in her own right, especially if she's willing to invite him to this basketball game. With this, the novel suggests that Josh has learned that to have JB, he needs to accept the people that JB loves.
Josh heads back outside. On his way out, Mom kisses him and gives him a piece of sweet potato pie. She also asks where JB is. Josh says she's probably with Miss Sweet Tea, thinking that if he had a girlfriend, he'd be with her too. However, Josh is single, so he thinks he'll have to make do with the next best thing.
To add to the sense that Josh has learned to accept JB's changes, Josh now indicates that he understands why JB is acting the way he is. By choosing to engage with the next best thing, Josh also shows that he's learning to deal with this forced independence.
Free Throws. Josh finishes his dessert in four mouthfuls and then fishes the ball from where it's stuck, wedged between the rim and the backboard. He knows that this means JB has been trying and failing to dunk. Josh dribbles to the free throw line and thinks that Dad once made 50 free throws in a row. Josh's record is nineteen. Josh makes his first attempt and then looks to see if anyone is watching. Nobody's around.
The place where the ball is stuck thanks to JB points to the fact that right now, JB also feels stuck and lost. Both boys, in other words, will take time to recover from losing their dad and just as JB tried and failed to dunk, they'll try and fail along the way as they begin to heal and move forward.
Josh makes the next twelve shots and thinks of them as the years of his life. Each one represents a year that he had with Dad. By the time Josh gets to free throw number 27, he's making them with his eyes closed. When he gets to number 49, he's barely aware that he's going to get 50; he just feels closer to Dad. Josh hears Dad ask if he feels better and opens his eyes. It's JB, not Dad.
Josh's closed eyes imply that even though he can't see his future, he's sure that it'll include basketball. Further, making it to 50 free throws shows that Josh is truly becoming more like Dad, while mistaking JB for Dad himself shows that JB is undergoing the same transformation.
The boys each ask how the other is and then JB compliments Josh on his crossover at the game last week. Josh asks if JB saw the trophy. JB only nods and Josh understands that JB is still being cautious around him. Josh asks if JB had a chance to speak to Dad before he died. JB says that Dad told him to stay out of his closet and to give Josh his championship ring. JB slides the ring onto Josh's finger. Sobbing, Josh asks why. JB says that Josh must be “Da Man” now, but Josh thinks that for the first time, he doesn't want the distinction.
The fact that Josh is no longer excited to be "Da Man" and earn the championship ring shows that he understands the dangers of emulating his father entirely. As wonderful as Dad was, his unwillingness to care for himself was a fatal flaw that Josh understands he shouldn't cultivate in himself. Further, leaving the ring to one son unwittingly continues to drive the boys apart and showcase their differences.
As JB starts to walk away, he says that he bets the dishes that Josh misses the next shot. Josh shouts that they're both “Da Man” and tosses JB the ball. JB dribbles back to Josh and shoots. The ball is like a bird as it flies through the sky and crosses over the boys.
The ball in this scene becomes a symbol for Dad dying and his role going forward; he'll continue to guide his sons towards basketball. Josh's assertion that they're both “Da Man” shows that he's ready now to make up with JB, apologize, and move forward.