He traveled, he took shots he wasn’t entitled to, and when he scored, both teams cheered.
One day, my whole perception of Church sports changed. It had seemed that competition drove each team. Everyone wants to win, and no one wants to lose. But on this particular day, every boy was going to play. That’s what the Young Men president told me. He said that my son Adam could play.
Adam is 12 and a very important part of our family and of his deacons quorum in the Brentwood Ward in the Portland Oregon Stake. Adam has been diagnosed as being borderline autistic. He also has a seizure disorder. With these conditions, he is developmentally delayed and is working on improving his motor skills.
Today, though, Adam knew he was going to play basketball on the deacons’ team. He was excited, and he kept asking about it all the way to the stake center. “Adam’s basketball game?” would be his question. My reply was, “Yes, your game.”
I had some concerns. How would the deacons respond with Adam on the court? Would they be careful with him out there? Would they let him handle the ball?
Everything began as church games should, with an opening prayer. Each team was receiving last-minute instructions from their coaches that when Adam was on the court there would be special concern for his safety. No overly aggressive moves would be tolerated.
The game began. With about two minutes to go in the first quarter, the coach called for Adam. With some coaxing Adam went to the scorer’s table and checked in. The official whistled him into the game.
At first, Adam played defense. Not knowing exactly what he should do, when everyone else ran to the other end of the floor, he did too, laughing all the way. Adam loves to run, especially when others are running with him.
At the two-minute mark of the second period, Adam again entered the game. With one minute left, our team had the ball out-of-bounds. Tyler received the ball from the referee to throw in. Adam, just a few feet away, was the only one open.
Tyler gently threw him the ball. Adam caught it, turned around, tucked the ball under his arm and ran. No one called traveling. He made his way through the players to the basket, took aim, and shot. The ball hit the rim and bounced off to one side. One of the opposing players picked it up and without hesitation handed the ball back to Adam.
Again Adam aimed and shot. Those watching used all the body language they could muster to help the ball go in. Another miss. The ball was given back to Adam. This time a basket. Everyone cheered the biggest cheer of the game. Adam exchanged high fives with his team and the opposing team and the half ended.
In the third quarter, with two minutes to play, Adam was in again. The ball was back in his hands, and Adam did what he knew how to do. He ran towards the basket, took aim, and shot, with young men standing and cheering him on. They rooted for him until he made the basket. Another round of cheers and high fives.
The score and point spread had no meaning that day. Everyone won. Those who watched, especially a grateful father, and those who played will always have this special game to remember forever.