A Multiverse of Possibilities

“Fuck Werner!”

“Who?”

LeBron James dribbled out the last four seconds with little pressure from the Sixers, as his team had a comfortable 11 point lead. The time ran out and he threw the ball in the air, embracing teammates Kevin Durant and Andrew Wiggins in the middle of the court. This was a historic night for James. Notching his fourth ring with the Toronto Raptors in as many years, and adding to the three he got in Houston, he had finally surpassed Michael Jordan’s legacy and cemented himself as the GOAT. At 36 years old, he could finally retire in peace.

“Wait, who’s Werner?”

Jeremiah smiled slyly and reached for his empty beer glass. Noticing how lightweight the glass felt he forcefully dropped it back on the table, probably still mad at the game.

“Want another beer?”

“Ah… sure.”

“Good. You’re buying.”

Kevin chuckled to himself, but quietly agreed. Unlike Jeremiah, who refused logic by being part of team #NEVERBRON, Kevin had actually made some money on this game. He pulled out his phone and went to the TrueSportsbetting app. Yes, he had made roughly $500, out of the more than $5,000 he had bet. The odds weren’t paying very much for the Raptors, with four all-stars on the team, they were by far the clear favorites.

Kevin looked at his watch, 10:37. He had made his bet, the first one he made on this game, exactly two hours and nine minutes ago, the last window for betting on that app. He appreciated the fact that he’d only had to make this bet once. He was very hesitant to make any changes, even the smallest ones, afraid of the ripple effects that could cause. He had learned that the hard way some time ago. In a different time, was probably the better way to word it. But sometimes, he would still bet on a game more than once. After all just changing one small thing in a tiny two hour period never had any significant ripple effects. And he had to make money somehow anyway.

“Cheers.”

Jeremiah left both glasses on the table, more gently this time.

“Thanks. Hey, who’s Werner?”

Jeremiah smiled to himself again, taking a sip of his beer before answering.

“It’s not a who, it’s an it.”

“Well, stop being sly and tell me, what is this whole deal?”

Jeremiah looked around the bar, not so much for intrusion as for scanning the vibe it had. He then took another sip of his beer, slowly reveling in its taste. Kevin was staring deeply at him, always annoyed by his games.

“Werner was a ladder manufacturer, remember? A sponsor of the NCAA tournament?”

“No… so?”

“Of course you don’t, they went bankrupt a few years ago. Again. I think they keep changing names every time they fuck something up.”

“Dude… what does that have to do with anything?”

Jeremiah leaned in on the table, a wide smile now painted broadly across his face.

“Are you ready to go down the rabbit hole?”

Now it was Kevin’s turn to stall. He took a long drink, tasting the refreshingly simple taste of his favorite pale ale. Jeremiah was the only person that knew what Kevin could do, and he was obsessed with conspiracy theories. The usual ones, like who shot president Obama, (his money was on the Clinton clan, after all, Hillary had gotten the top job the year after), but also more harmless ones, mostly involving shady trades and other sports related theories. Kevin wasn’t a fan, but every once in a while he liked to hear Jeremiah’s ideas anyway. They were entertaining after all.

“Go on…”

“Great! So, you remember Klay Thompson?”

“Not really.”

“Remember the PAC-10 tournament in 2011?”

“Hell no, what are you talking about man?”

“Okay, so, in 2011 Washington State won the PAC-10 tournament, before they became the PAC-12 that is… anyway, their star player, Klay Thompson, was cutting the net when an accident happened…”

“Oooh shit! I remember now. Yeah, that things was gruesome!”

“I know right‽ Freak accident, he fell to the side and the scissors went straight through his left bicep, he could never shoot the same again.”

“Dude… stop, I don’t want that imagery in my head.”

They were in full on banter now, even as the noise level in the bar had come down.

“It’s important though! See, he was a really good three-point shooter in college, and had a crazy tournament! He basically won the entire thing by himself, even scored over fifty points in the first game!”

“Wow, really?”

“Yeah, and Golden State had already planned on landing him to help out their other recently drafted sharpshooter, Stephen Curry.”

“Curry? Isn’t that guy playing in Europe now?”

“Well… yes, he had some injuries… and he had no one backing him up and…”

It sounded flimsy at best, and Jeremiah could see the skepticism in Kevin’s eyes.

“Alright, I’ll cut to the chase. In 2011 LeBron had just left to Miami right? Well, after Thompson got injured, Golden State was in dire need for a shooter, so they picked up Mario Chalmers, Miami’s point guard/shooting guard at the time.”

“Yeah, and he was all too happy to leave and not be yelled at again.”

They shared a laugh and some beer. Everyone could take respite on dismissing Mario Chalmers. Kevin still wanted to know the end of the story.

“Okay, so that didn’t work out well for Chalmers, but how does that affect this game? Or what? I’m still sort of lost.”

“Yeah, that didn’t work for the Warriors… But it didn’t work for Miami either…”

“Oh please.”

This wasn’t new. Jeremiah had always held the theory that the entire Miami Heat’s locker room was only united by their mutual disdain for Mario Chalmers. That when they traded him, the big egoes of Bosh, Wade and James couldn’t handle each other without rallying together against a common foe. But that was nonsense, it had all come out from an obscure opinion piece on the Bleacher Report that Jeremiah had held on to for way too long.

“I mean it! Think about it, if the Miami locker room is in peace, the star power is good enough for them to consistently go to the finals, hopefully win a championship or two. Then, satiated by his success, and inspired by what Kyrie Irving is doing, LeBron decides to come back home and give it a try here.”

“You’re still on that bring LeBron home train?”

“Fuck no! I mean that it could have happened. You know, instead of opting out of his contract early and go to the Rockets he could have come here, willing to build something after already won a championship.”

“Well… maybe he’d be more likely to come back after a championship, but he’d still need good reasons to come.”

“Yeah, sure, but just think about it. His contract with Miami expires in 2014, we haven’t been doing so good so we get a lottery pick, get Wiggins, maybe even Simmons! With the prospect of LeBron coming back, Kyrie doesn’t flee the team, and just like that we have a solid big three in Cleveland!”

Jeremiah was giddy, his body almost jumping out of the table.

“I don’t know man, all that because Chalmers stays in Miami? Why would he even stay though?”

Jeremiah’s look turned frustrated now.

“I told you, Golden State only went after him after Klay Thompson got injured, they had been scouting him for months!”

“Okay, so Thompson goes to the Warriors… and then what? What do they do?”

“Who cares‽ The point is that Chalmers stays in Miami, LeBron wins his championship, happily comes back home, and we win back to back, to back, to back, to back…”

“Ok, ok, I get it. Cool story bro, pretty fucking crazy though.”

They sat in silence for a second. Jeremiah was grinning, struggling to keep the pride he felt at coming up with such ideas to himself.

“You know… The beauty this is that it would just be about keeping an accident from happening. Like, it’s just one faulty ladder after all.”

“Right…”

The bar was almost empty now. It would close at midnight, like every Tuesday night. Neither of them really had anywhere else to go anyway, no work to get ready the next morning, so they just sat staring at their empty glasses.

“Another beer?”

“Sure”

As Jeremiah walked towards the bar, Kevin couldn’t help but to think at how sad it was to see him still wearing that Cavaliers jersey, JaVale McGee’s number 23, after almost ten years without going to the playoffs. He considered the pros and cons. Sure, he had seen that small things could have significant ripple effects, especially in the long run. Sure, there were a lot of incognitos they hadn’t really thought through. And sure, a big part of this was based on Jeremiah’s hunch about the relationships of people neither of them had ever met. But then again, it was just a step ladder. And he could help a young promising man from seeing his dreams crushed. But most importantly, if there was one thing he really cared about, was his hometown and his basketball. He did some quick searching on his phone, this all had happened just 10 years and a few months ago. He proceeded to meddling with his watch as Jeremiah approached him, a scared look on his face. Too late.

Truth is, Kevin hadn’t thought any of it through. It was March 9th, a bit earlier than he intended. He could stay a day or two or act quickly. He opted for the latter. In no time, and with money he had already started making through online betting, Kevin was in L.A. the next day, hanging out by the Staple Center since early morning.

“Excuse me sir, can I see where you keep your Werner ladders please?”

The maintenance guy just looked at Kevin like he was crazy and kept. Yes, he really had not thought any of this through. He spent the next thirty or so minutes trying to sneak into the maintenance rooms, trying to find the ladders they would use for the net cutting ceremony. He managed to get through security and was now lost in the vastness of what is the behind the scenes of a huge basketball tournament. While walking around he stumbled upon Klay Thompson, the college player, eating an apple. With a knife.

“What are you doing, no!”

Out of pure instinct, Kevin slapped the knife out of his hand, then immediately regretted. As if it was moving in slow motion, the knife traveled down, towards Thompson’s right foot. And then it landed. Next to him. Causing no harm at all.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I’m so sorry man! I just want you to be careful, you’re going to win it all and need to stay super healthy?”

“What is going on here?”

A large older man, presumably an assistant coach, had just appeared from behind.

“Hey, do you know where they keep the ladders?”

“What ladders?”

“The ones they’ll use to cut the nets. I just want to check for safety measure.”

The coach and player looked at each other confused. This man was clearly a crazy person that needed to be dealt with by security.

“They don’t bring it until the final. That’s… two days from now.”

“Oh, right, silly me. Well, you’re gonna be great man!”

Kevin was now staring at a confused and scared Klay Thompson straight in the face.

“Just be careful when you are cutting down the net. Last thing we want is for you to fall from a ladder. And ruin your whole career. Right?”

Silence. A clear gulp down a Klay Thompson whose face had lost any color it had before. The large man stepped up.

“You need to get the fuck out of here.”

“Okay. Bye!”

And that was it. Kevin felt his job was done, nothing weird or suspicious about what he’d done. And even though he personally hadn’t checked the ladder, he felt, based on the serious look on Klay’s face, that the message was received. He would be more careful. Probably. In any case, he would stay and watch the games to make sure.

The first few games were boring, but when Thompson’s Washington State were going to play Washington, he got excited. That was the game he would get a historic 56 points after all. Except he didn’t He got 43. Still, a very respectable number, and a record in many categories. But not enough for his team to win. Uh-oh Kevin thought to himself as the game wound down. Welp, at least he doesn’t get injured. Kevin looked at his watch again, it was 10:37, March 10th 2011.

He was back at the bar, a lot of people still there.

“Hey, who’s playing right now?”

“What?”

“Who’s playing? And who’s winning”

Jeremiah immediately understood what was going on.

“The Lakers and the Warriors, and they’re going to overtime.”

“Ah, shit. It didn’t work.”

“What did you do this time?”

Jeremiah shot him a stern look. Kevin didn’t bother with him, he had to make sure he hadn’t radically altered anything other than what he intended, and pulled his phone out.

“Whoa, this thing just unlocked itself.”

“Face ID.”

“Weird.”

Without much thought into that, he started checking whatever he could think of first. The results shocked him. Somehow, an orange reality T.V. star had just been re-elected president of the U.S. and was considering an amendment to the constitution so he could run a third time. He had a point, some fringe reporters argued, this was now commonplace in Russia, our country’s new closest ally. The UK had been processing an exit from the European Union for almost five years now, stalling the process at all costs. France and Canada now dominated international dealings through the UN in what some outlets called the pretty boys of diplomacy club. And there was a war in Syria. Again.

“So… how bad is it?”

Kevin hadn’t been able to conceal his horrified face. He slowly looked up, trying to not sound too bad.

“It’s… different… So, LeBron never came back? the Cavs never won a title?”

“Oh, yes he did. And yes, we did!”

That answer pleased Kevin and helped slow his heartbeat just a little. This was way too much information for him right now.

“Hey, the game is back on.”

And there it was. A chyron at the bottom of the screen with his stats and the million dollar question “Can LeBron James win his sixth championship title tonight?”. Because he was playing. In a Lakers shirt.

“Well shit, I need to go back and fix this.”

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