Wednesday, May 9, 2012


We recently moved into a three bedroom town home. This is the largest living space we've had since owning our own home in North Carolina 4 years ago. However, it has the smallest kitchen I've ever had, with the least amount of shelves and cupboards and zero storage. There is no attic, no basement, no garage, and no pantry.

And so, I have found myself sorting through boxes of memorabilia; our entire living room, ironically overflowing with our entire lives.

Among the rubble, I found a box labeled "Videos." I had gotten rid of most of my movies on VHS and replaced them with DVDs a long time ago, so what was in the box was mostly recordings of things I had taped from TV along with some of my college videos I made during my brief stint as a media studies major. I decided to start popping them in to find out what the unlabeled ones were, figure out which ones worked, and decided which ones were worth keeping. One of the first ones I discovered was a highlight video my dad had put together for me my freshman year of college. It had all of my most memorable clips from my high school games my last two years. I had been struggling with confidence my first year at UB, and I wasn't playing like myself. He wanted to remind me of what I could do. I discovered that the tape worked, only I couldn't bring myself to stop it. What can I say. I loved the glory days.

Now most of you, whether you are a sports fan or not, have gotten some glimpse of Sports Center/ESPN highlights at one time or another in your life. They are typically 5 to 10 seconds long, showing the final, awesome outcome of a play. So you are probably thinking that I sat down to watch play after play of my awesomeness, and if you know anything about my game, you're probably wondering just how many three pointers one can watch over and over without being completely full of themselves. Well, that is not how my dad puts together a highlight reel. In fact, many of the highlights have to be watched over again just to figure out what he was trying to highlight. To learn to spot the things my dad considers a highlight, you need to be able to think like a basketball coach. And not just any coach, but a coach who has studied the game most of his life. At first glance, this highlight tape is laughable. There are missed three point attempts, missed free throw attempts, and clips where I downright fall on my face. Several clips are minutes long, encompassing entire plays filled with mistakes and one itty bitty triumph. My dad doesn't just look for the final outcome of a play. He looks at the play in its entirety praising the work that leads up to the awesomeness.

I'll never forget the first time I watched that tape. He mailed it to me, and when I had the chance, I sat down in my dorm room to watch it. I remember calling him and asking him why there was a clip of me missing free throws. The camera had just scanned the scoreboard. It was a tied game and I choked at the free throw line. His response was simple. "Did you see the hustle from Allison to tie up the ball and get it back into our possession?" I watched it again. My teammate Allison, hustled after the rebound of my missed free throw, gaining the ball back for our team. That play eventually led to a basket by me soon after.  In another clip I completely brick a three pointer, but what my dad wanted to highlight was how I hustled after my own rebound, got the ball back, and dished for a three pointer by my teammate, Kristen.

One particular clip is nearly 5 minutes long. He highlighted the entire end of a game we had against Athens. It was a game we had been losing. We were even down by 22 more than half way through the third quarter. My dad told me he couldn't edit out the end because of the incredible team effort that brought us back into that game. It's funny. Looking back on the video, when Athens takes a time out with only about 3 or 4 minutes left in the game, the camera angle shows the scoreboard as well as our team jogging toward the bench. You can tell we are tired; we look almost defeated. My dad, our coach, had to point up to the scoreboard to show us, "You are only 4 points down!" We had been chipping away, and working our butts off, and had no idea we'd even come back into the game, and the camera captured that moment. We went on to win that game with a buzzer beater, but I will never forget my dad's chosen highlight of the game. It wasn't my nearly half court shot that won the game, or the steal I had a few plays before that led to a layup, or even the three pointers hit in the second half by myself, my sister, and Tiffany. The play when I stole Athens pass to go on to score and tie up the game, there's a quiet hero. It happened so quickly, it was a play only my dad could see. While Athens was getting ready to inbound the ball, Kristin, my little sister, denied her player the ball so hard, that the inbounder had to throw it over her head to try to get it inbounds. That is the pass I picked off, but that is not my highlight. If not for Kristin's hard work, and her determination in not letting their best player catch the ball, that steal wouldn't have even been an option.

Contrary to popular opinion in my home town, my dad did not care about my personal statistics. It didn't bother him if another teammate outscored me. He wanted me to be successful, sure, but success to him wasn't how many three pointers I could hit, or how many fast break layups I could get. He taught me that the success was in the hard work, and the only score that mattered was the one on the scoreboard at the end of the game. My dad was never disappointed with any one of us for missing shots. He was only ever disappointed by a lack of effort.

Basketball has taught me a lot of life lessons, as silly as that may sound, and this last one grasped me as I was reliving the glory days yesterday, on a living room floor cluttered with the highlights of my life. The highlights are more than just the triumphs and more than just the final outcome. They involve more than just one player, and more than just one play. The highlights, and some of the most memorable moments are in the plays leading up to the success, and in the support you get from your team, leading to the victory.

I will likely remember every potty training accident my children ever have. We don't quickly forget cleaning up poop with our own two hands. But without those moments, the moments we've tried and failed, the moments we've fallen flat on our faces and found ourselves in a pile of poo, what would that final victorious, mess-free, moment on the potty mean. 

Jelani graduates this weekend to become a Physical Therapy Assistant. What would that even mean to our family if we hadn't gone through years of struggles and hard work, lay offs, and financial pressures? Not to mention the fact that we wouldn't even be here without the help of some very important teammates of ours; our family.

Sure, the highlights are great. Everyone loves a slam dunk and a three pointer or two, but don't forget the plays and the players which have led you to that glorious moment. That is where the truly unforgettable highlights can be found.

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