In the “Reindeer Games” chapter, Junior explains how he ended up joining the Reardan basketball team. At first, it had seemed like a long shot, as he did not believe that his skills were good enough for him to be accepted on the team. Foreseeing that he would get cut from the lowest division or “C squad,” he also anticipated the associated feeling of humiliation. After a conversation with his father, Arnold Spirit Sr., Junior changed his mind.
When his father starts telling him a story about when he first met Junior’s mother, the boy is impatient and does not see Dad’s point. He takes it for granted that they would know each other because both are from the “rez,” or Native American reservation where they all live. Arnold Sr. explains that their meeting was closely connected with his arrival on the rez when he was only five years old. He also mentions that his wife is eight years older than him.
Arnold’s story about getting big is more literal than metaphorical. The age difference between the then-children proved significant because she was able and willing to help him. He was a tiny boy who was too small to reach the water at a drinking fountain, and she boosted him up so he could get a drink. Junior does not see the relevance to basketball, so his dad tells him:
You have to dream big to get big.
Junior decides to try out and survives a brutal day of cutting to stay on the team.