Friday, June 13, 2008
Now He Knows
I saw something last night that brought back a few memories.
Pete Maravich was my basketball idol. He had long hair and wore floppy socks and could do things with a basketball that no one before him had ever done. He wore number 23 on his jersey. And he was a scoring machine. When Pete played at LSU he averaged over 44 points per game. Not bad for a shaggy headed white boy.
As a guy about 7 years younger than Pete, I read stories about how many hours every day he worked on his basketball skills. He was a born basketball player but in my view he was greater than everybody else simply because he worked harder than everybody else.
Pete’s story and work ethic motivated me.
Because of his example, I spent a lot of time in those years with a basketball in my hand. When I walked to town I was usually dribbling a basketball. Many times when I rode my bicycle I dribbled a basketball beside me. In my 9th grade year I left the little middle school in Reynolds and went to a much larger high school in Fort Valley. In Reynolds essentially everybody that came out for basketball made the team because we needed the players. Soon after I arrived at Ft. Valley High School I found myself in tryouts to make the B-team. There must have been 75 boys trying out for those 12 spots on the team.
I made that team but got limited playing time that year. If I remember correctly I got more playing time as the year progressed. The next year I was on the starting line-up and our B-team went undefeated. (The only undefeated team I ever played on). I few of us got to dress out on the varsity. We would get to actually go in a varsity game at the end if we were way behind or way ahead.
One night right in the middle of a very close varsity game with one of our regional rivals, the coach surprised me and put me in the game. The gym was packed and very loud and I remember being very nervous. I also remember the first time I touched the ball I scored.
The summer before my 11th grade year I knew the schools were being integrated. I was set up to be one of the key players on the varsity but now with all the new athletes coming in I didn’t even know if I would get any playing time. But I remembered Pete Maravich and his #23.
I worked my rear end off that summer. I kept a chart on the inside of my closet door at home. I was working at my dad’s store but as soon as I got off in the late afternoons, I would head to the gym and shoot basketballs. And I shot 1000 times a day. I knew I would never be able to jump as high or run as fast but I figured my ticket could come by shooting better.
I did get playing time and actually led the scoring for the next two years on this basketball team that played AAA basketball, which at that time was the largest high school classification. I proved I could play with people who were much stronger and who could jump higher and run faster if I chose to pay the price.
One of the greatest lessons I ever learned.
I have remembered and applied that lesson time and time again in my life. I think I have been able to do things that most don’t do or are afraid to do simply because I didn’t get intimidated by people who had greater skills. I just chose to work harder and smarter.
By the way, these memories were brought back to me when I saw the number on Luke’s (my youngest son) jersey last night at a softball game. He knows that 34 was my number in high school. He has seen the pictures. His mom and I smiled when we saw his jersey and it made me proud he was wearing it.
What he may not know is the real story behind that number. And more importantly the life lesson behind that story.
Now he knows.