DeKalb, Ill., High School basketball team traveled by bus for two and a half hours and then waited another hour past game time to get their chance to take a big city scalp when they played Milwaukee Madison Senior on a Saturday night in February 2009. The essence of sportsmanship was about to emerge.
Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee captain Johntell Franklin died at a local hospital (after a five year fight with cervical cancer). The school offered to cancel the game but Franklin asked them not to do so and to play it without him. They had only 8 players but the game went ahead.
After the game had started Franklin turned up to support his team on. Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr spotted him entering and called time out. The team (and some of the crowd went over and hugged him). The coach asked Franklin if he’d like to sit on the bench and young Franklin said he’d actually prefer to play.
Because Franklin was not listed on the official team sheet, it incurred a penalty of two free shots at the basket if a player is brought on who is not on the team sheet. Aware of the opposition captain’s desperately sad news, The DeKalb coach, Dave Rohlman told the umpire they didn’t want the call. However the referees insisted the penalty must be taken.
DeKalb captain, Darius McNeal (he must have Irish blood in him) bounced the ball a few times, looked at the rim of the basket and then threw the ball two feet in the air and let it roll towards the end line. The second ‘shot’ rolled out of his hand and onto the floor. The Milwaukee team turned and applauded the whole DeKalb bench for their gesture of true sportsmanship. Soon every spectator stood and applauded the kids and the coach from DeKalb.
Franklin actually went on to score 10 points in a game which eventually ‘broke open late in the second half as Milwaukee went on to win 62-47.
“I did it for the guy who lost his mom,” McNeal said “It was the right thing to do.” Fair play to McNeal, his team mates and coach Rohlman for they all know that ‘it’s not whether you won or lost….it’s how you played the game.”
Thanks to Shane Smith for alerting me