When the Detroit Pistons face the Los Angeles Clippers on November 14th, they will be engaging in battle against a familiar foe, a nemesis that still haunts Detroiters to this day - a man who will still be collecting paychecks from the Pistons organization until the year 2020: Josh Smith! There, I said it. The man who shall not be named in Detroit has been named. Why? Because I am here to clear his name so all Detroiters can look upon him in a new light when they cast their collective gaze toward the television this Saturday.
I started with a premise meant to disrupt the foundation upon which we’ve built our image of this man: Josh Smith’s horrific inefficient shooting was due to neither ineptness or malevolence. I decided I would take this premise into the darkest of caves with me until I had a theory that explained his abnormal basketball behavior. After 146 days, I emerged from the cave pasty-skinned and enlightened. I let out the most beastly of roars, for in my meditation, I had procured a theory that explains not only Josh Smith’s behavior, but also solves mysteries we never even knew existed. I call this:
J. Parker Pool’s
Josh Smith Theory of Everything
The story starts with a race of human-like beings from a planet residing on the opposite end of the solar system. While sharing many of the physical characteristics of humans, they were streets ahead technology-wise. With their planet in warfare and the outlook for survival grim, a group of 41 escaped mere days before nuclear clouds encompassed the whole of the landscape. These 41 fortunate deserters were already gone when the planet’s entire population perished, so they never learned the fate of their home world. Now they were roaming aimlessly through space in search of somewhere they could build their thriving civilization anew.Their plan? To find a planet with similar qualities to their own, colonize it, then send back communication for their loved ones to come.
Now the form of communication this race of people had was brilliant. It involved a metal cylinder connected to a sheet of fiberglass. One simply had to fling a specialized inflated ball against it to make noises that would fly throughout the universe more efficiently than any human-made satellite-based device ever could. And with the unique shape of this contraption, various angles, arcs, spin, and velocities would make different sounds, allowing one to express any number of concepts, ideas, or emotions with the subtlest of nuances. Communication is opened by throwing the ball near -- without making contact to -- the contraption, and communication is terminated by placing the ball through the metal cylinder -- akin to hanging up the phone.
Perhaps you have already surmised the remainder of the story. This group of 41 eventually found Earth - an incredibly lucky find. There was a hushed feeling that could only be described as hopeful trepidation as they made a stealth landing in a remote part of New England in the Earth year 1890. Realizing they were vastly outnumbered on this planet (roughly a billion and a half to 41), they concluded assimilation was more viable than colonization.
These people donned human clothes and gave themselves human names, preferring inconspicuous names like Smith or Jones. They quickly set up their communication system, although in the year 1890 out in the hinterlands of bumblefrick, nowheresville, they had to settle for some peach baskets nailed up to a slab of good ol’ fashioned wood. Using this primitive system, they tried in vain to contact their friends and families, who lay cold and dead on the now barren wasteland of their home planet.
They tried to keep this communication system hidden from humans, but one day an intrepid young man by the name of James A. Naismith stumbled upon the system. The aliens were horrified that they had been found out. After a few tense moments of cold sweat and awkward silence, one of the quick-witted members of the group convinced Naismith that it was actually a game where the goal was get the ball IN the basket, assuming he would be satisfied with the answer and be on his way.
But no, Naismith was a curious fellow. He poked and he prodded. Question after question until the alien had found himself making up an entire new sport on the spot. Now, this is where actual history meets publicized history. James A. Naismith went on to "invent" the game of basketball and it flourished into the popular sport we know today.
That brings us to Josh Smith. Nearly all of the group of 41 died out in the 1980s. Their bodies weren’t meant to handle processed foods like Cookie Crisp cereal, Oscar Mayer wieners, or Hi-C Ecto-Cooler. Miraculously, one member of the group was born with a mutation on her 73rd allele. She lived past all of them and was even able to mate with a human to give birth to a young boy. As per tradition, they gave the boy an inconspicuous name: Josh Smith. He grew up hearing the legends of his homeland -- how he had a whole host of family and friends there that loved him. He learned of the communication system and often had dreams at night of being the savior to his people… the great uniter.
While his mother, the lone surviving original member, had lost hope of ever seeing her family again, Josh approached his mission with a vengeance. He learned the language and learned what each toss at each angle at each speed meant. Night after night, he went out and practiced caroming the ball off the cylinder and off the backboard, perfecting his brick. Each time he mistakenly dropped the ball into the basket, he would grimace and reaffirm his vow to unite his people. Each night, he typed out long letters to his unknown relatives, silent soliloquies that he was hoping someone, anyone would hear.
One night after another sending out another batch of never-to-be-replied-to space mail, Josh Smith gave up hope. He threw himself dejectedly onto the couch and flipped on the television, that box of sound and pictures that Josh had always sneered at condescendingly, for it did nothing but make humans slothenly and diabetic. It didn’t matter anymore. Nothing did. Josh Smith was admitting he was a failure and willing to give away the last of his self-respect to join the human race. That’s when it happened: Somewhere between Supermarket Sweep on the Lifetime channel and a story of seven attention-starved strangers picked to live in a house on MTV, Josh saw his opportunity. There it was, on ESPN, a combination of Earthen satellites and his ancestor’s communication system. If he could combine the powers of both systems, the strength of the signal was sure to grow exponentially. Nothing would stop him from contacting his long-lost kin now!
Hopes rekindled, Josh not only mastered the carom-based language, but learned to play defense at an elite enough level to become a burgeoning star at Oak Hill Academy: uniform number 41. There, he even learned to bite his tongue and not complain about the other players "speaking" his language with every clank. He thought them all racists, not unsimilar to people who randomly put together kung fu movie noises claiming to speak Chinese. He did, however, deck a teammate for missing a shot at such an angle as to say Josh Smith had an oblong belly button (thus, would need to move to the filthy island of oblongs if he were to ever find someone willing to mate with him). Eventually, Josh improved his level to the point where the Atlanta Hawks drafted him in the first round. As he received the phone call informing him of his new team, tears of joy welled up in Josh’s eyes as he realized now he had the power to articulate messages that would fly through the human’s satellites and emanate from there across all stellar channels.
So that brings us to now. Failing to connect to his relatives in Atlanta, Houston, or in front of our own eyes as a Detroit Piston, Josh has moved on to the communications capital of the world: Los Angeles. The Pistons and Clippers meet this November and December 14th. 14 is 41 backwards. Could Josh take this as a cosmic sign that these Pistons games will be ticket back to an unknown homeland that constantly yanks at his heartstrings? Watch Josh Smith continue to dial home, unaware that his messages are merely bumping off centuries old corpses on an abandoned planet amidst a fading nuclear cloud, as he single-mindedly continues his mission by sending futile messages across time and space -- waiting for a parade, a homecoming, a happy ending that will never come.