"Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you. That's truly about the game, and in some ways that's about life too."
- Michael Jordan
Although I was cut from my school's basketball team 3 years in a row only to make the team my junior year in high school and be cut again my senior year, this quote from Michael Jordan rings true to me. The "good things" that Michael spoke of in this quote means something a little different to me and my story.
I remember the last night of basketball practice that I ever had with my high school basketball team. It was my senior year, and I had improved my performance from the previous year in terms of my individual performance, and my team performance. Every practice I tried to do better than the last, trying to do my best to lead and step up for my coaches. That one night though, I could tell that something was different in my head coach. He seemed to be a little more hesitant than usual. It was as if he was sorry about something, and I didn't know what for at that time.
At the end of practice, coach Elliot pulled me to the side and instructed me to meet him in his office, I immediately knew that something was up. "Marlon, I don't think your going to make it." I felt surprisingly numb to his words. "Your probably one of the most well mannered guys that I've ever had, but when it comes to 5 on 5 basketball, you just don't seem to fit son." He then proceeded to ask if there was any way that he could help me out with applying to some colleges. And then he stood up and began to shed tears while looking me dead in my eyes. "I love you son, I love you." He shook my hand and gave me back my name tag from my locker and sent me off. I'll never forget the look in his eyes when he laid down the news.
I walked off, devastated from my perceived failure, believing that this would be the highlight of my senior year. Over the course of the next few days I go in contact with the assistant coaches and as a result, I noticed a pattern. As I looked into the eyes of one of the assistant coaches, tears began to arise in his eyes as well. He proceeded to compliment my character, urging me to continue on with that same attitude, because he believed that is something that will take me far in life. I became increasingly humbled in response to the respect from teammates that I received.
With the memories of all that had happened with the team, I continued on, successfully completing my senior year with the constant self-criticizing thought lingering in the back of my mind: "What good can I have gained from this? What could I have learned from this failure?" After pondering the thought often over time, I've just recently realized what I have truly learned from the game.
Overall, I've cultivated a true understanding of humility as it relates to life in general. I've experienced this humility through the influencing power that the game has on the youth of this generation. One of the events that our program had was a kids basketball camp. During the camp, I had the opportunity of leading a few groups and showing them certain fundamentals of the game. At each one of the stations we were instructed to always leave a few seconds to share words of encouragement with the participants. Without hesitation, I took that opportunity to tell the kids something that some of them may not have ever heard, that in all that they do, that they give their absolute all.
To say those words and look those children in their promising eyes opened my own eyes to the fact that this game is much larger that my own desires and aspirations. There are many children in this broken world today, and what better way to encourage them than with the love of Christ? I believe that there is no other way. What I told those children on throughout those few days may not have been forgotten to some, but I believe that it will be remembered by someone and it may have caused someone to grow, and that is something that I will always be willing to settle for over making the game winning jump shot any day.
Even now, I tend to reminisce about the game, my former teammates, and what God has allowed me to learn through it, and as I do, I always increasingly grow into a state of meekness, remembering that what I have gained from this game is invaluable to me, and it is something that brings me great joy to share with people.