Winners Only


The clock had already run out when he made the winning shot—and both teams won.

They aren’t great basketball players, but they are determined, I thought as I watched the opposing team run up and down the court.

They were younger, less experienced, and shorter than our basketball team, but they kept on trying, even when it was clear that they didn’t have a chance of winning.

Randy, a boy with sandy-blond hair, played like he didn’t know what the score was. Although he rarely had possession of the ball, he chased it up and down the court like the whole game depended on him.

When his teammates did pass him the ball, he would carry it four steps, stop, bounce it, and pass it to another player. But the referees didn’t call traveling, and no one complained. Randy, who is mentally handicapped, was doing his best.

With seconds left on the clock, he got the ball and his teammates yelled for him to shoot. Concentrating so hard that his tongue hung out of his mouth, he shot—and missed. One of our players rebounded the ball, hesitated, and then tossed the ball to Randy.

“Shoot the ball!” our player yelled, and members of both teams joined in the cheer.

The ball went up, hit the rim, and bounced off. Again, Randy was given the ball, and again he missed. Time had run out, but the buzzer didn’t sound, and the referees stayed at half court. Everyone yelled for him to try again. This time the ball arched and swished the net, and the last two points of the game belonged to Randy.

The crowd went wild and the members of both teams surrounded Randy to congratulate him. He jumped up and down like he’d won the game. And I realized that he had.

And so had every player in that game. They had been true sportsmen: fair and generous. That night no one went home feeling angry or disappointed. There was no bragging or teasing—only fun, good feelings, and winners.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dave McDonald