An excerpt from the book Created by Kobe Bryant
Written by Wesley King
As Twig finally managed to grab a defensive rebound, Rain broke for half-court.
Twig immediately lobbed the ball up the court, looking strangely eager to get rid of it. Rain caught the arcing pass and turned away from his team so he wouldn’t see them disappear.
"I don’t need them anyway," he thought. "I am the team."
His right sneaker suddenly stuck to the ground. He looked down and realized it wasn’t just stuck: his shoe had sunk into the hardwood up to his laces.
He stared at his submerged foot, dumbfounded. The floorboards had taken on the consistency of quicksand.
“How . . . ?” Rain said, yanking his sneaker free with a wet, suctioning plop.
He somehow kept his dribble, trying to make it to the net, but his feet sunk deeper and deeper into the floor with every step.
Soon they were submerged to his ankles, and he slogged forward, fixated on scoring and winning and showing the coach that he was the star of the team.
But as his shins sunk further into the strange bog, he imagined the rest of him slipping below the surface.
Fear bubbled up in his belly, and without thinking, he took a desperate shot from way beyond the three-point line.
As before, it sailed well short and thudded against the far wall.
The floor instantly returned to normal, and Rain spun around, looking for his teammates. They were all there.
The fear that had flared through his stomach like a red-hot geyser receded and cooled to stone, heavy and nauseating. He took a deep breath, trying to hold back the bile.
It is so easy to sink into ourselves.
Rolabi stepped out onto the court, his hands still clasped behind his back.
“That will be all for today,” he announced.
Peño turned to him, frowning. “We aren’t going to do any drills?”
Rolabi didn’t seem to hear him. He waited patiently as the ball rolled back to his feet, as if it were tethered.
Then he scooped it up, dropped it into his medicine bag with a distant-sounding bounce, and made his way back to the bleachers, where he sat down with his hands folded on top of his bag.
As soon as he did, the locker room door slammed open with a gust of freezing wind. Rain turned, facing the gale.
“Where . . . how did . . . ?” Big John said.
Rain glanced back at the bleachers. Once again, Rolabi Wizenard had vanished.
“This ain’t cool,” Peño muttered.
“So . . . we’re pretty set on our coach being a witch, right?” Big John said.
Lab scowled. “What are you, six? There’s no such thing as witches.”
“Aren’t witches usually female?” Jerome asked.
“Yeah,” A-Wall said. “Men are mitches.”
Lab rubbed his forehead. “You are dumb as a post, homie.”
Rain walked away from the ensuing argument. He sat down and turned to the banners.
He didn’t have time for this. Even if what Rolabi was doing was magic—impossible as it all seemed—it didn’t matter. Rain had one job: to put his family back together.
Rolabi didn’t understand that. No one here did. This wasn’t a game.
He slipped his shoes off and went to put them away, then frowned. A business card was resting on top of his duffel bag. He checked the other bags and saw cards placed on each of them.
The front of the card was mostly white with a blue W, like a simple logo, and a number: 7652249493636273. The other players wandered over and found their cards as well.
“When did he put these here?” Big John said. “Who’s got a cell? Vin, call it up.”
Rain tucked his card away and hurried out. He didn’t need to call Rolabi—his mama did. She would set him straight. Rain needed to get back to training. He had to be ready for the season.
As he approached the door, he saw something written across the old, dull metal in flowing cursive silver ink. "How does a leader open a door?"
Rain stared at it, confused, as the silver ink faded away.
He pushed open the door and hurried into the morning alone.