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Take a break from the hectic news of Hollywood with our weekly look into the world of "what if". Fresh fan fiction happens weekly here at Cinema Blend on Short Story Saturday. This is our latest short story entry... "Chewbaccaball".
Gottverdammt, it was hot in this costume. Used to spending his days wearings shorts and a tank top, the big German was struggling to adjust to life buried beneath a big pile of fur. They promised they'd let him take the head off between takes and JJ had hired an army of fan-wielding assistants to stand around him on breaks, but even for an athlete in peak condition this experience was a struggle. Though they'd yet to roll camera he was already starting to hate it, but the German wasn't the kind of man to quit when the going gets tough.
It started as a bet with Shawn Marion. Nicknamed The Matrix during his time in Phoenix, not just for his sweet Neo-like basketball moves but for his obsessive love of science fiction films, Marion spent a lot of his free time in the locker room reading up on the latest movie news. So when he saw this open casting call for Star Wars: Episode VII on Cinema Blend…
Wanted: male, 7 ft to 7.3 ft tall with a slim/thin build and upright posture. Not too worked out or too 'thick set' especially in the shoulders. Broad facial features would be a bonus.
…he stepped on to the American Airlines Center practice court with a plan.
There aren't many guys who meet that very specific description in the world, not even in the NBA where 7 footers are fairly common. Pau Gasol may be 7 feet tall but he has the narrow facial features of an oversized rat. Tyson Chandler has the cheekbones, but his body is covered in the hefty bulk of carefully crafted muscles. The casting call seemed almost as though it were written with Dirk Werner Nowitzki in mind. Not for the first time, Shawn wondered if JJ Abrams were a Dallas Mavericks fan.
Shawn was determined to get his buddy to try out. One problem though: Dirk was just about the only player in the NBA who hated being in front of a camera. If Marion had any shot at convincing him to audition, he had to use the one thing Dirk cared about more than anything else: playing basketball.
After practice Dirk hung around shooting hoops. Even after fifteen years in the NBA Nowitzki was still the first one in and the last one out of the gym. Dirk hated the spotlight, but he loved a competition. Marion knew all he had to do was create one.
Dirk chuckled when Trix' stepped up and challenged him to a 3-point shooting contest. Nowitzki was renowned throughout the NBA as the best shooting big man of all time, while Marion's unorthodox shot was better at making people laugh than actually making it inside the net.
Nowtizki agreed and without pause stepped up to the three-point arc. Shot after shot left Dirk's skilled hands and splashed past the iron rim, barely making a sound as the ball swooshed through the net. Marion, meanwhile, stood at the three point line tossing wild throws in the general direction of the backboard, his errant attempts sent careening off into the depths of the now darkened practice gym.
Shawn wasn't worried. This was all part of his plan.
"Alright man, alright," Shawn said in his traditionally clipped and effortless manner. "You got me on that one, you know. But I don't think you can do it again."
Dirk laughed a deep, hearty German laugh before he said, "come on Trix' don't be silly. You know I love you, but three point shooting isn't your specialty, obviously. You do plenty of things I can't do on the basketball court, but we both know I can shoot the lights out and you can't."
"Oh so that's how it is?" said Marion. "Uh huh we see about that. Since you such a man then why don't we uh, put a wager on it this time?"
"A wager? Aw come on Trix' I don't want to take your cash." Dirk had stopped laughing and was starting to feel bad about the whole thing. He couldn't imagine what had gotten into his friend. "Why don't we do something else? Maybe we could shoot free throws or something? You'd have a better chance at that."
"Don't worry Dirk, we ain't gonna bet no money. We gonna bet something more interestin'." Marion smiled as he laid out the terms of the deal. "If you win, I gotta get up in front of the crowd at the AAC opening night and sing 'We Are The Champions'. An' if I win, you gotta go audition to be in the new Star Wars movie. Star Wars: Episode VII, you know what I'm sayin'?"
"Star Wars?" said Dirk. "Are you talking about that again? I tell you in Germany we weren't so big on all those robots and things. I don't know know these Jedi you're always talking about. That's a crazy bet. I'm a basketball player not an actor."
"Well that shouldn't matter then, cause you so good you can't lose anyway right? Ain't you the all time greatest? Or is you chicken?" Marion flapped his arms and squawked around the court a bit, for emphasis.
"Fine, look, let's get this over with."
Dirk stepped up to the three-point line and calmly drained nine threes in a row. He missed his tenth, but he'd just shot 90% from beyond the arc. During the regular NBA season, that would have been enough for a record.
When he finished he turned around to find Marion had slipped some sort of brown, hooded robe on over his practice uniform. He stood with his head down, arms in his sleeves.
"Er Shawn?" said Dirk. "What are you wearing?"
"Shawn? What are you doing? It's your turn?"
Still no answer.
Concerned Dirk walked towards his friend to give him a pat on the shoulder. As he got close, Shawn moved faster than he'd ever seen him move before, sidestepping him. Before he could react, Marion was behind him standing at the three point line. Head still obscured by his hood, he remained there, unmoving.
"Wow that was, I mean, you've really been practicing in the offseason dude."
"I have been practicing," came a muffled voice from inside the hood. "But I haven't been practicing basketball."
Marion threw back the hood to reveal some sort of helmet underneath. Painted red and white it featured an opaque visor which completely covered his eyes.
"You're going to shoot wearing that?" asked an incredulous Dirk. "But how are you going to see the target with the blast shield down?"
"I'm going to use the Force." said Marion.
"Are you crazy Trix'? The Force is only in the movies, obviously. I think you're taking this Star Wars thing a bit too far."
"The Force isn't just something in a movie," he said calmly. "It's an energy field created by all living things." As Marion spoke he reached down, picked up a basketball, and lobbed it at the basket. It went in with a swish.
"It surrounds us and penetrates us." He picked up another and fired again. It dropped perfectly through the hoop.
"It binds the galaxy, and the basketball court, together." A third three pointer and he still hadn't touched the rim.
"You've lost it." said Dirk. "Or you're some kind of fool."
"Who's the more foolish?" intoned Trix as a fourth shot went in. "The fool or the fool who follows him?"
"Four is pretty good," said Dirk. Swish. "Ok five, but really we don't have to keep this up. I get the joke. Hilarious. This is obviously all some prank. I must be on that Ashton Kutcher show again, right?"
"The force can have a strong influence on the weak minded." said Marion as a sixth shot went in.
"I don't even know what that means," said Dirk as Marion swished a seventh.
"Do or do not, there is no try," said Shawn as his eighth basketball ripped through the net.
"Hey, didn't I see that on a t-shirt you were wearing?" asked Nowitzki.
Marion ignored him as he fired a ninth ball towards the basket and before they heard the "swish" of it going in, threw off his helmet and turned to face his friend Dirk.
"You're going to make a great Chewbacca," he said as he walked towards him.
"I don't even know what a Chewbacca is," Dirk said with a pleading note in his voice.
"You must unlearn what you have learned," answered Marion. "Besides, a bet is a bet." Without turning he tossed the tenth and final basketball over his shoulder, walked past his friend, and out of the gym. Dirk didn't have to look to know it was good.
Now Nowitzki found himself standing underneath a bank of hot spotlights next to Harrison Ford, waiting for someone to tell him what to do. From somewhere behind the massive clutter of recording equipment clustered around them a voice shouted "Action!" and Harrison yelled something about Stormtroopers and wookies. That was supposed to be Dirk's cue to turn around and rip the arms off the specially made Stormtrooper puppet standing behind them. Except when he tried, somehow his hair got tangled up in the armor, and he found himself sprawling on the floor atop a pile of white body parts.
"Cut!" yelled his director JJ Abrams and then everyone waited patiently while Dirk extricated his hairy form from the mess of Stormtrooper leftovers.
It took twelve tries and two hours before Dirk finally managed to get the arms off that Stormtrooper and when he did Abrams' only response was, "well I guess we can fix it in post."
What the hell was he doing on this movie set? Basketball was where he belonged.
They moved on to the next scene which meant Dirk had to drag himself over to another part of the stage. Struggling to see out of the tiny eyeholes in his Chewbacca mask, he tripped over R2D2 on his way into the next set. It was there, laying on the ground and slowly sweating to death, that Dirk thought he heard Marion's voice calling out to him. "Use the force, Dirk!" Shawn said. In a flash of insight as he struggled to his feet, Nowitzki thought maybe he was starting to understand what that meant.
"Action!" shouted Abrams and everything went quiet on the set.
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Nowitzki walked up to the helm of the Millennium Falcon and frantically worked the controls which would activate the ship's laser cannon. When a stagehand shouted "kaboom!" to indicate he'd just blown up one of Admiral Thrawn's TIE Fighters, Dirk threw back his head and let out a wild, celebratory, wookie yell.
"Cut, print! That was perfect Dirk!" enthused his director.
Not since he won the title back in 2011 had Dirk felt so alive.
Things got better from there. Somewhere along the way Nowitzki forgot about how hot he was and started having fun. He forgot he was Dirk Nowitzki NBA champion basketball player and actually became Chewbacca, Han Solo's trusty sidekick and a Wookie from the planet Kashyyk.
By the time Abrams sent them home to rest, the big German found himself looking forward to his 6am call time. Let LeBron and his team full of allstars have their not one, not two, not three NBA championships. Nowitzki had one and at the age of 36 on a Mavericks team full of spare parts, was keenly aware he couldn't keep playing basketball forever. Maybe there was more to life than basketball. Maybe there was this. Thanks to a bet Dirk Nowitzki had found a new kind of happiness in the last place he expected it, next to Han Solo in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
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