I watched Jason dribble the ball down the court, weaving around two Trojan players while I tried to outrun the one guarding me. Jason leaped toward the side of the basket and shot. The ball teetered on the rim for a second before it swished through.
“Go, Jason, go!” cheered a crowd of little kids. I should have felt happy because our team, the Jets, had finally tied the score. But I didn’t want to hear Jason’s name anymore. He always scored the most points and caught the most rebounds—and got the most cheers.
The big red numbers on the clock showed only one minute left in the game when Dave passed the ball to me. The court was clear. I dribbled the ball down the sideline, the sound of thundering footsteps close behind. I jumped as high as I could and shot, trying to bounce the ball off the backboard and into the net. It hit the rim and bounced off. So who caught the rebound? Jason. Who scored the winning basket? Jason.
It wasn’t easy being in the same fifth grade class and on the same basketball team as a superstar. All the second and third graders knew Jason. They ran up to him on the playground and crowded around him like a fan club. I’d be famous, too, if I scored fifteen points a game. Secretly I wished that Jason would disappear. Then one day he did!
“Jason has to have his tonsils out,” Mrs. Litten told the class. “He’s going to be out of school for at least a week.”
Dave groaned. “Now we’re going to get trampled by the Kings,” he whispered to me loudly. “Our team will never win without Jason.”
“Maybe,” I whispered back. Mrs. Litten gave me a look that said, “Be quiet and do your work.” I tried to concentrate on my spelling words, but I kept thinking that maybe I’d finally have a chance to be the star. Maybe now the kids would be shouting, “Go Taylor!”
Basketball practice was a disaster, however. I practiced shooting from the free-throw line, and only one ball swished through. And when I tried dribbling fast, I tripped over the ball. But I didn’t give up. I started practicing my free throws again. It wasn’t going to be easy to be famous.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Litten asked me to stay after class, and I wondered what I’d done wrong.
“Taylor, I have a favor to ask.”
“Yes?” I was curious now, instead of worried.
“Would you fill in for Jason tomorrow and Friday? He goes to the second grade classes after lunch to help them with their schoolwork. They’re missing him.”
“Yes.” Mrs. Litten smiled. “You’re a good student.”
“Sure.” But I wondered what I was getting myself into.
The next day I walked into a second grade class after gulping down my sandwich. My stomach felt as though I’d swallowed a roller coaster when I saw all those faces staring at me. The teacher introduced me and told them that I played basketball like Jason. Suddenly everyone was asking me questions, and the time passed like a video on fast forward.
Right before I left, little Angelica gave me a hug. “Tell me your name again?” she asked.
“Taylor,” I repeated for the zillionth time—but I didn’t mind one bit. In fact, I felt fantastic!
“I need to know your name so I can cheer for you,” Angelica told me. “Just like for Jason.”
That’s when I figured it out. All the kids knew Jason because he helped them out. It had nothing to do with basketball! I thought that over.
That afternoon I had my own little cheering section at the game, and I started grinning like a circus clown. But I wasn’t thinking about being famous. Instead, I was planning to bring some dinosaur stickers for Robby, and a book about kittens to show Angelica. I planned to tell Mrs. Litten that I wanted to keep volunteering, even when Jason came back.
“Go Taylor!” shouted Angelica, and I was glad I’d learned that some things are much better than being a basketball superstar!