Our son is a natural basketball player. He has always been tall and he has good coordination. My friend said at one of his games, “Look at him go. I mean, he’s a big boy. I can’t believe he can get down the court that fast.” So true. He played lineman on the football team, which he loved, but basketball was his gift.
He played as a boy on a team where the coach would take him out when he was likely to score more than the coach’s son. Even then he had a shot that was a joy to watch. So smooth, so direct, so good.
In middle school he had an unfortunate experience with a bad coach. Our son played post (when he got in the game) and everything that went wrong was always his fault. Others would shake their heads and ask why the coach treated our son that way. He was definitely the coach’s whipping boy and we were so afraid that would end his days on the basketball court.
Fortunately our son was able to join a community league after the middle school season. The school coach had told our son not to dribble, not ever, no matter what – so you could see our son hesitate every time he got the ball. This new coach drilled it into his head that is was OK to dribble, that he should dribble, that’s how basketball players move – and the first time our son did dribble, the coach jumped up and yelled “Atta boy!!” Thank goodness for his patience and his belief in our son.
During his high school career, our son was fortunate to play on the team with some talented athletes. There were many exciting games, including three wins during one season against his school’s biggest rival. When Katrina sent a player from New Orleans our way, our son knew the new guy would replace him in the post position. He turned out to be a great teammate, and his presence gave our son the opportunity to work on that beautiful three-point shot.
The rules for play-offs got changed when our son was a senior, and only one designated game against each other school would determine the rankings. Even though our son’s team had soundly defeated one of the other schools in their first game, the one game that counted came down to the wire. It had been a close back-and-forth lead changing game all night.
Our son had been playing a good game and the coach decided to set up the last play so that our son would have the final shot to win the game. The teams moved down the court toward the goal, everyone was in their place for the chosen play, no fouls were called, and the ball was passed to our son, standing at the baseline just outside the three point line. He dribbled, he set, he was swarmed by the other team, he released it. It was a beautiful shot, with just the right arch, closer, coming in, almost there…
The ball did not go into the basket. The buzzer sounded. The game was over. Our team lost. Our son was devastated. He hung his head as he walked off the court.
Our son didn’t get to be the hero of the game that night. In fact he felt about as low as anyone can in a situation such as this. He didn’t want to talk about it then, and he hasn’t said much about it in the years since.
But he learned an awful lot, the proverbial hard way. He understood what it feels like to give your all and still come up short. He discovered that others can be either kind or cruel when you let them down. He realized that his coach, who was usually all gruff and critical, had a heart for his players that did their best. He learned that life does go on even after a great disappointment.
No, he didn’t make that shot. But he did make the best of a bad situation – and he has made us very proud.