The shot rattles off the rim. The clock ticks 0.00. Instead of an iconic series winner, it’s a disappointing home loss and a looming Game Seven.
At the post-game press conference a reporter asks Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas about his miss.
“Would a taller point guard have made it?”
All five feet, six inches of Isaiah glares into the lights. “I should have made it,” he says.
Outside the plane window a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky. Isaiah and Marcus Smart exchange glances. WTF.
The plane lurches hard to the right. The players let out a yell. The plane lurches hard to the left. A louder yell.
Another bolt of lightning, this one just outside the window. A loud beep begins from the cockpit. The plane dives forward.
All around people pull out their phones. Texts, frantic calls. Isaiah stares straight forward. Under his breath he prays for his family. His words gain volume and speed to match the plane’s descent.
A third lighting strike hits the fuselage. The interior flashes light and dark just as Isaiah finishes his prayer: “And please God make me taller.”
The plane straightens. The storm outside stops. The pilot’s voice comes over the loudspeaker: “Thanks to your prayers we’re safe.”
Isaiah knocks his phone off the nightstand as the alarm goes off. He slept deeply. Tonight is Game Seven.
Isaiah feels his toes stretch against the carpet. He stands and stretches his arms. He’s startled: his fingers bang into the ceiling.
Isaiah pulls his hands to his face and tilts his head. Something doesn’t look right. He rushes to the bathroom, ducking just in time to avoid hitting his head on the doorframe.
Isaiah can not believe what he sees in the mirror. Somehow and for some reason, the smallest All Star in NBA history is now eight feet tall.
He could hear the Cleveland crowd’s shock as he ran out of the tunnel. The arena, raucous just seconds before, goes silent. The other players stop shooting and stare dumbfounded.
Isaiah Thomas — yes that Isaiah Thomas — is eight feet tall.
When Isaiah walked into the locker room that afternoon with his new physique, his teammates had the same reaction. Only Marcus Smart, who heard Isaiah’s prayer, and Coach Brad Stevens, who had gameplanned for this possibility, were not surprised.
After Isaiah reminded them of their plane ride and told them about his prayer, Al Horford helpfully chimed in, “It’s like Big.” None of the players had seen the movie. Hearing Al retell the movie’s plot helped to distract the team from the startling sight before them.
The players slowly acclimated, looking at Isaiah with growing admiration. Coach adjusted the gameplan. The equipment crew got to work on figuring out what he would wear.
Isaiah felt ready. His whole life he’d dreamt this would happen.
The Cleveland crowd was not ready. After a few moments of confused silence, they begin to boo. Jeers rain from every corner of the arena. “Cheater!” someone screams.
This builds into a steady chant, “Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” Adam Silver scurries to the tunnel to consult with the officials. Is this illegal? What should they do?
Television executives knew what to do: put this on television! Isaiah’s metamorphosis was drawing big-time ratings. The game would go on.
As the teams prepare for tip-off, Isaiah nudges Al Horford. Isaiah, for the first time in his basketball career, is going to take — and win — the opening tip.
The game begins awkwardly. Thomas’ size changes the court’s geometry. Both teams play tentatively.
The Celtics gameplan is the same as it had been all year: get Isaiah the ball and let him go to work. But aside from two electrifying Horford-to-Thomas alley-oops, Isaiah is ineffective.
The ball, normally glued to his hand, has farther to travel. Kyrie gets a quick steal. When Isaiah pushes off to separate from his defender, Lebron goes flying across the court. Isaiah gets a flagrant.
The fans boo lustily as he heads to the bench. He takes his seat next to Coach Stevens but is quickly told to move. His feet are so big they extend onto the court. Isaiah is moved to the end of the bench, displacing two photographers to make room. His head hangs low.
When the teams return for the second half, Isaiah has better control. He abandons his jumper and goes to the rim. He is borderline unstoppable.
The game goes back and forth. With 8 seconds left, it’s a one-point Cavs lead. With the clock winding down, Isaiah drives to the rim and is fouled hard. With no time remaining he steps to the line.
“Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” The chants are louder than ever. The building quakes.
Isaiah takes a deep breath. He hears the voices and what they are saying. In his heart, he agrees with them.
Suddenly Isaiah kneels at the foul line. The crowd hushes. He motions to the referee for the ball. It’s not exactly his old height, but it’s close. He fires up his first free throw from his knees.
The crowd screams louder. The stands shake. It feels like the fateful flight. Isaiah releases the second free throw.
Game over. Celtics win! Isaiah’s teammates rush to him, clinging to his arms like they're branches of a tree. The world’s tiniest giant wears an enormous smile.
At the post-game press conference a reporter asks Isaiah about the game.
“Was it worth losing what makes you special to win?”
Isaiah glares into the camera. “If we win a title it will be.”
Two days later, Isaiah and his Celtics go on to the Finals to face the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors sweep in four.