Crosby, naturally, dug in deeper.
After Estes agreed to come back with Crosby, Oliver and Anderson to their Airbnb, he didn’t say much more. During the brief car ride, it wasn’t even clear if he knew where he was going or who he was with. They put him in a bedroom and he immediately conked out. In the morning, he quietly ate the breakfast the Airbnb host cooked for him. “It’s the way my life goes—bang, 180 degrees,” he says. “When it’s going bad, something good happens. And when it’s going good…”
When Estes got to the gym, the two dozen players were split into teams, and they played hard-fought scrimmages all morning in front of a handful of scouts. Estes once again stood out, but had problems keeping his emotions in check, muttering curses at every screw-up and berating his teammates when they didn’t feed him the ball. Crosby found his demeanor disconcerting, but she had to admit, it was working. He made himself the alpha dog on the floor. “I was playing for more than those other guys,” he says. “I wasn’t out there to make friends.”
Among those in attendance was a French scout acting as a conduit for several teams overseas. He was looking for a big man, as the foreign scouts always are, and he was said to have his eye on Estes. The contract numbers were, by TBL standards, astronomical: 30 grand a month, maybe more.
After the scrimmages, a slam-dunk contest was announced. Estes, hopped up by his strong play, grabbed his crotch and shouted something to the effect of, “I’m going to win this motherfucker.” According to the story that has reverberated through TBL circles ever since, that single outburst caused the scout to reconsider. Estes wasn’t worth the risk.
“We prepare these men as best we can,” says Evelyn Magley. “We tell them, ‘Carry yourself like there’s always someone watching. Be positive on and off the court. No profanity. How you play shows who you are.’ But sometimes the light bulb does not go on.”
In that moment, Estes knew nothing about the French scout (and he didn’t win the dunk contest, either). He was told the next day, at the final session of the tryout, in front of all the players, held out to the group as a cautionary tale.
“Bang,” Estes says, “one-eighty.”
“He broke down and started crying,” says Evelyn. “I felt like he needed a mama talk, but everybody’s only got one mama, you can’t have that with everyone – you don’t know what their situation is. I said, ‘Can I have a mama talk with you?’ And he says, ‘Ms. Magley, I don’t have a mama.’ That’s why he wasn’t getting it. I think a light bulb started to go on his head.”
Estes left Vegas exactly how he arrived — with nothing.
At the end of the Jackals’ third season, Kayla Crosby did her usual thing—raked herself over the coals for every misstep. Inconsistency, she realized, was her big problem. Unable to locate an effective middle ground between being a taskmaster and a pleaser, she swung back and forth between the two poles, feeding resentment and distrust among the players. Even the team name was occasionally a bone of contention; a jackal is a nasty, disreputable creature, some players said, why do you call us that? She had picked the name mostly because she liked the alliteration. “It’s not a statement on anybody,” she says. “It covers all of us – me, the players, the fans.”
This was one of many minor misunderstandings that perpetuated a collective feeling of instability. “By the time they get to this level,” an NBA scout told me, “these guys have endured so many broken promises, so many doors slammed in their face. The psychological effects are hard to fathom.” Most players came to Jamestown to play ball, collect a few highlights for their reel and move on. Some ignored Crosby, others tried to manipulate her; getting a critical mass to buy into her vision felt impossible.