The Crossover

by

Kwame Alexander

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Crossover can help.

The Crossover: Warm-Up Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dribbling. Josh narrates his own play-by-play as he plays basketball. He expertly dribbles the ball to make a basket, taunting both the reader and his opponents as he explains in detail how he evades his opponent, handles the ball, and makes his opponent slip on the gym floor as he victoriously makes the basket.
By introducing his story this way, Josh shows the reader what's most important to him: basketball and, notably, the fact that he's very good at it. This also allows him to take control of his narrative and show the reader how he'd like to be thought of.
Themes
Success, Work, and Choice Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon
Josh Bell. Josh introduces himself to the reader as both Josh Bell and as his nickname, Filthy McNasty. He says people call him Filthy McNasty because his skills on the basketball court are such that he can put anyone to shame. He's tall with long hair and sees himself as the next big basketball star. Dad often reminds him that he played basketball with the greats like "Magic" (Earvin Johnson Jr.) and "the Goat" (Earl Manigault), but Josh brushes him off by insisting that he's too good for Dad's "pets." Mom tells Josh that Dad is old school, while Josh is "fresh and new." Josh explains that Mom is the only person who can call him that without embarrassing him, as he knows she's just talking about how good he is.
By shifting his tone to explain more explicitly to the reader who he is, Josh is able to more finely tune how the reader sees him. When he mentions that Dad played with these greats, it suggests that Josh's abilities on the court aren't something new--they're something that, in all likelihood, Dad has taught Josh from a very young age. Josh's sense of self-importance, as well as his treatment of Mom, reinforces his age. He's a young teen, so at exactly the age where he's putting together his own identity while still relying on his parents.
Themes
Inheritance and Genetics Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Success, Work, and Choice Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon
How I Got My Nickname. Josh says he's not a fan of jazz music, but Dad is. One time, when Dad was making Josh listen to a CD by Horace Silver, Dad insisted that the music was "fast and free" just like Josh and his brother JB are on the court. Josh wasn't impressed by the music, which offended Dad. Dad insisted that Horace Silver is one of the best and then dedicated the next song on the album to Josh. It was called "Filthy McNasty."
This poem introduces the idea that aside from being surrounded by basketball, Josh's upbringing has also focused on music and appreciating genres created by African-Americans (he'll later mention rap and hip-hop). This indicates that in his narration, Josh is pulling from these music traditions, thereby situating him within a specific cultural history.
Themes
Identity and Language Theme Icon
At first. Josh explains that he wasn't sold on the nickname at first, because everyone, including Mom, made fun of him. However, as Josh got older and got better at basketball, he started to like it. Whenever Josh scored or did something exceptional on the court, Dad would jump and scream praise for "Filthy." That made Josh feel good about the nickname.
The fact that Josh changed his mind because of Dad's continued use of the nickname illustrates how important Dad's guidance is to Josh. This situates Dad as Josh's primary mentor and idol and offers him a road map for how to grow up.
Themes
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire The Crossover LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Crossover PDF
Filthy McNasty. Josh refers to himself as a star player and a "MYTHical MANchild," obsessed with practicing so he can get better. He's fast on the court and can easily fake out other players, but he really shines when he shoots. When he shoots, he can make other players look uncool.
Note that Josh says he's intent on practice. This shows that he's aware that his talent isn't just something he's born with. Instead, he has to work hard to make sure that he can put his natural talent to good use.
Themes
Success, Work, and Choice Theme Icon
Jordan Bell. Josh's twin brother, Jordan, also plays basketball. Jordan’s other love is betting, which he does all the time--even if there's no chance of winning. His preferred nickname is JB. He admires Michael Jordan but doesn't want anyone to know. JB does a poor job of hiding his admiration, however: he has twelve pairs of Air Jordan sneakers, as well as Michael Jordan sheets, underwear, cups, and sunglasses. He even used $50 he won in a bet with Dad to purchase a Michael Jordan toothbrush off of eBay. Josh believes that JB is actually stalking Michael Jordan.
Keep in mind that twins are often closer to each other than different-age siblings; this suggests that the boys probably have a very close relationship from the start. However, it's telling that Josh implies that he doesn't share JB's admiration of Michael Jordan. This offers the possibility that the boys don't share everything with each other; they have their own individual likes and desires too.
Themes
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
On the way to the game. As the family drives to the game, Josh sits in the back with JB. JB plays with Josh's locks and only stops when Josh hits him with his jock strap.
Again, this behavior reminds the reader of Josh and JB's maturity level: they're young boys still, and still mess with each other for fun.
Themes
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Five Reasons I Have Locks. Josh lists the five reasons he has locks, in ascending order of importance. First, his favorite rappers, including Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, have locks. They make Josh feel like a king and he's the only one on the school basketball team who has them. They have the added bonus of helping people realize that he isn't JB. Most importantly, Josh once saw a clip of Dad dunking in Europe, and Dad's locks looked like wings. After seeing that, Josh realized that he needed his own wings so he could fly too.
Josh's reasons show that he's very connected to his cultural history and music culture, as well as to his family. With this, the novel suggests that a person--especially a young person like Josh--crafts their identity by looking at those around them and choosing who to emulate. Josh's mention that the locks also differentiate him from JB shows that as close as they are, Josh does want to be his own person.
Themes
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mom tells Dad. Mom always makes Dad sit at the very top of the bleachers during Josh and JB's basketball games. She believes that Dad is too confrontational. Dad ignores Mom and coaches Josh on his jump shot, while JB asks Mom to not hug him before the game. Dad tells the boys to treasure Mom's love like he treasured his mom's love, but the boys aren't interested. JB insists that Mom comes to all the games, which Dad's mom didn't do, and Josh points out that Dad's mom wasn't the assistant principal at his school like their mom is.
Though Josh doesn't question the value or the reasoning of Mom's assessment of Dad's confrontational nature, this does suggest that Dad might not be a role model entirely without fault. Dad's attempt to convince the boys to hug Mom also reinforces both his status as their dad and as a person of an older generation, which creates the sense that Josh and JB are on their own in their development at times.
Themes
Inheritance and Genetics Theme Icon
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Conversation. Josh asks Dad if he misses playing basketball. Dad answers that he misses it like a genre of music misses its biggest star. When Josh points out that Dad is still young and could play again, Dad assures Josh that his job now is taking care of the family. Josh asks if Dad gets bored and notes that he could get a job. Dad seems a bit offended; he says that he can handle himself and he saved the money he made playing basketball. He admits that he does have his eyes peeled in case a coaching job comes up, but he's happy to be the coach of the household.
By referring back to music, Dad again illustrates how Josh's narrative style is rooted in the music he was exposed to as a child. Josh's curiosity about Dad's life and how he feels about his role as a stay-at-home parent suggests that Josh is beginning to grow up and come of age, as he's becoming more aware of and interested in others' internal lives.
Themes
Brotherhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon
Dad asks Josh to fetch JB so they can get to practice, but Josh asks about Dad's championship ring instead. When Josh asks if he can wear it, Dad says he can only wear it once he's "Da Man." Josh suggests that Dad write a book, but Dad just laughs. Then, Josh asks Dad to tell him why he's called Da Man. Dad says that, back when he was playing, he never lost, had the best moves, and was popular with the ladies. Mom comes up behind Dad and teases him while Josh laughs.
When Dad insists that Josh can't wear the championship ring until he becomes Da Man, it sets up becoming Da Man as Josh's goal for the novel. At this point, the goal entails basketball success beyond what Josh is already enjoying, which suggests that Josh's understanding of who his dad is is limited to this one arena.
Themes
Inheritance and Genetics Theme Icon
Success, Work, and Choice Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon
Basketball Rule #1. Josh shares the first rule: in life, one's family is the court and one's heart is the ball. No matter what happens, a person needs to always leave their heart in the court.
Though Josh seldom adds more explanation to these rules, he implies at points that they come from Dad. These rules as a whole then show how Josh uses Dad's wisdom and applies it to his own life.
Themes
Success, Work, and Choice Theme Icon
Identity and Language Theme Icon