A Sporting Life: Part III–My Lebron Moment

Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Lebron James all had moments in which they were so dominant that they were nearly unstoppable.  Each had games where they scored well over half of their team’s points.  Opponents were so awe struck on these occasions that at the end of their humiliation they shook the hand of the man who had embarrassed them.

My Lebron Moment came in the seventh grade when I played for my parochial school team, the Ascension Knights.  I was a forward most of the time, but subbed for the center when he fouled out or got thrown out of the game for fighting.  I stood six feet tall and weighed 140 lbs. of bone and gristle and just enough muscle to wire the whole thing together and make it move in awkward spasms.  I had a vertical leap of a foot or so, and I could do half of a pull up without rupturing my biceps.

My physique and athletic prowess inspired our cheerleaders.  They rallied our spirits during games with the following cheer:  “Oh c’mon  boys–can’t you do better?”  And the head cheerleader was so enamored with me that she challenged me to a fistfight on the playground one day at lunch.  I took her confident prediction that she could beat me up with one hand as her way of telling me (in code) that she liked me.  I walked away certain in the knowledge that I could never hit a girl (they were too quick on their feet), and my heart sang with love as she taunted me and called me a wimp.

On the night I led my team to victory we arrived at the YMCA gym with hearts filled with cautious hope and a tentative determination to win.  But as we warmed up we saw that our chances for success were slight.  The other team was a head taller at each position,  and every one of them could dribble, pass and shoot.  They laughed at us as we went through our drills.

But they weren’t laughing at me at the end of the game.  The score was 60-3, and I had scored two thirds of our points.  Instead my opponents yawned and looked distracted whenever I shot or made a pass or dribbled the ball up the court.  I had worn them down into a state of near boredom with my moves, with the relentless consistency of my play.  And by the end of the first quarter both teams knew that the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.

My big scoring burst came in one play, believe it or not.  Nine players went up for a long rebound after Mike, our guard, badly missed a shot.  Both teams believed that our opponents had gotten the ball, and everyone but I ran up the court in a fast break to futility.  I had been standing a few feet away when the two teams fought for the ball, and no one saw that it had somehow fallen between all the thrashing bodies and rolled to me.  I gathered it up, dribbled twice and made a lay up. The referee blew his whistle to alert the rest of the players that I had scored, and I gloried in my triumph as they slowly jogged back to where I held the ball under our basket.

My teammates were astonished by my success, and some of them looked at me with less disdain than usual for a few minutes.  Jerry, our other forward, challenged me for scoring supremacy later in the game when he made a free throw, but when the final buzzer buzzed I remained the dominant player.

We heard a few weeks later that we had won the game by forfeit.  The other team had several players who were too old for the league.  Some of them could drive cars and shaved regularly.  All their wins were given over to their opponents, and even though my stellar performance was rendered moot by this development, I still held tight to the notion that I had been our top scorer, had the most rebounds, and had the highest shooting percentage of any of our players in that game.

I noticed a change of attitude in my teammates and the cheerleaders after that game.  Some of the players began to speak to me when it was absolutely necessary, and the cheerleaders stopped saying “Eww, what’s that?” when I came near them.  Instead they congratulated me by saying, “God you were lucky!”


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