Corey Maggette was feeling pretty good about himself. The Duke freshman had fit seamlessly into a lineup including All-Americans Elton Brand and Trajan Langdon and, despite being the only freshman on the team, he wasn’t being subjected to that much rookie hazing. He’d expected the worst—wash the uniforms, polish the statue of Christian Laettner, massage Brand’s size 18s, spell “Krzyzewski” three times fast. Instead, he only had to carry Gatorade to all the players every practice, and once he changed a tire on the team bus. With his bare hands. All in all, things were going well. It was a third of the way through the season, and he figured that was it. There was nothing they could do to him.
The game was at home—Florida was coming through with their own cadre of young ballers—and Elton Brand got an idea. A nasty, cruel, Grinch-like idea. An hour before gametime, he asked one of the equipment guys to wheel a ladder up next to the backboard. He climbed up and smacked a huge paw-print two feet above the rim, marring the perfect surface.
During the shootaround, he pointed out the blemish to Maggette. “Damn, look at that, Corey! One of those Gators messed up my backboard. Get that mark off of there.”
Maggette nodded, and turned to search for one of the equipment guys. Brand pulled him back. “No man, not now,” he said a smirk cracking his face. “During the game.”
Maggette looked up at the print, a full 12 feet above the floor, wondering how he would get it. Brand saw him looking, and placed a big arm around the freshman’s shoulders. “You’ll figure it out.”