Stopping by the local Redbox and being the recipient of a “pay it forward” style gift of a free game rental sitting on the machine, it felt like a fine time to combine two of my loves: Video games and basketball. Many of my coworkers praised the 2K series for its realism and addicting action, so why not follow their lead?
The problem became obvious from the Quick Play that the game launches you into right off the bat. I chose the Cleveland Cavaliers, because I wanted to play as The King, and I didn’t want to embarrass my beloved Oklahoma City Thunder with my lackluster play. One quarter of basketball went by as the game completed its installation, and the lowly Philadelphia 76ers had a six point lead on the Cavs. Still, I pressed forward to experience everything the game had to offer.
And I met Fabricio Medvedenko.
The NBA 2K series, like many sports titles, lets you create your own player. What’s different about this game is that it’s mandatory, and offered me a chance to scan my face into the game. I passed on this opportunity, and instead decided to create an original player and follow his journey. After a little time in the editor, I found myself face to face with a 6′10″, 280 pound power forward with a long gray beard and bright purple hair, who was in his senior year of high school despite his in-game model making Greg Oden look young by comparison. His name, as it turned out, would be Fabricio Medvedenko.
For reasons that defied logic, this burly power forward was the top rated high school prospect in the nation, with headlines extolling his accomplishments appearing quite often. These accomplishments included an 8 point, 0 rebound, 1 assist outing with 2 turnovers, and a 9 point 0 rebound 0 assist game with 4 turnovers and the most atrocious defense since Steve Nash retired. I’d chalk it up to the game’s requirement of what must be a Street Fighter-esque combination of moves to pull off almost anything in the game(my almost seven footer never dunked once), but then I recalled that one Esdeem played basketball in fourth grade and hated defense like Brussels sprouts. Today the Brussels sprouts are fine by me(thank you, bacon!), but that defense never really caught on.
Still, those stunning numbers had colleges tripping over one another to refcruit Fabricio, who weighed his options as the state championship loomed large. On that massive stage, Fabricio played a banner game. Fourteen points, two steals, one assist, still no rebounds… and five turnovers that almost cost his team the game. Still, a last second inbounds play and a three ball as time expired netted him the state title. That meant it was time to weigh his options.
Fabricio eventually decided on Kansas, as the sterling reputation of Bill Self and the Jayhawks won out over the fact the University of Oklahoma was not an available choice. And here’s what I like to think happened next. He enrolled in classes and fell in love with organic chemistry. This newfound love of science distracted him during practice, and thus caused the legendary Kansas coach to craft a new gameplan for their opening game against Villanova.
In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure it was a sound strategy. The Kansas point guard would dribble the ball up court and stand, unflinching, as he dribbled the ball just outside the three point arc directly in front of the basket. As Fabricio waved his hands and cut to the basket, the point guard blatantly ignored him and forced up threes as the shot clock wound down, choosing a lower percentage shot rather than pass to the open man. Were there plays Fabricio was ignoring? Did his newfound love of science offend his more athletic minded teammates? Who can say.
Fabricio Medvedenko scored two points in his college debut, and those only came on a steal from the point guard as he dribbled down court. He was clearly frustrated with his role on the team, and Coach Self, equally frustrated, sat him on the bench for the remainder of the game. Clearly, Bill Self has a few rules for his Kansas players(follow the scheme, don’t force shots, never lose the Big 12 title), and Fabricio’s blatant disregard of those mandates put him in the proverbial doghouse.
It was the last game of Fabricio Medvedenko’s college career, because I returned the game to Redbox the next day.
One version of the multiverse theory posits that, with an infinite number of universes, all possibilities come to fruition. So there’s a Fabricio Medvedenko that rewrote the NBA record books, a Fabricio Medvedenko that got a max deal then stopped caring, and a Fabricio Medvedenko that became a fringe NBA player and spent a lot of time in the D-League(even money says Sam Presti drafted him, and eventually swapped him for a trade exemption. Only a few people will get this, but any Thunder fan who sees this will laugh and nod their heads). But in my universe, Fabricio Medvedenko stayed in Kansas, riding the bench and never getting into another game, but eventually went on to get a PhD in organic chemistry and eventually won the Nobel Prize.
Years later, he would be asked about the arc of his career, and if the accolades he received compared with the bright lights of the NBA. His research changed lives, was that better than performing on the bright stage to a throng of fans who would curse his name on sports talk radio at the slightest error? Dr. Medvedenko would stroke his long beard, now stark white with age and push his glasses up on his nose and look the reporter dead in the eye.
“Those bastards really should have passed me the ball.”