Down by 19 at one point in the game, the Elite Sports Club 12U boys did something really special. They fought hard, played hard, and came back on an 18-2 run. There were ups and downs in between…all of them which lead to the very moment where they had cut their deficit to only two. This was the moment when 11 year-old Sam Slutske was fouled with no time left on the clock. With two free-throws to shoot for a chance to tie-up the game, he ended up on the line. A scenario that screenwriters salivate over, but would surely send Shaquille O’Neal a shiver up his spine.
Let’s talk about what really happens there. It’s a place that for over a hundred years has played tricks on the minds of many. Insurmountable pressure that’s linked to the word “free”. It’s free, so I have to make it. I’m supposed to make it. And yet still to this day, the most amazing basketball players who have ever walked the earth still miss them. What’s worse — your team and people you may or may not care about are watching you. Everyone is watching you.
And now everyone was watching Sam. For those of you who don’t know the story, you probably thought this was going to end with, “He made them both, tied it up, and the team won it in overtime”.
But that didn’t happen.
In fact, Sam actually missed his first free-throw.
Yet in the midst of that heartbreaking moment where he put the weight of the loss on his shoulders, he still took a second shot…and made it. A point that some might say is pointless, but yet in this story it’s worth so much. It represents strength of character, integrity, and all things amazing in the human will to fight. There are so many times in life when we’ve fought so hard to get somewhere only to find ourselves not getting what we wanted. Especially when it’s so incredibly close within our reach, it without a doubt becomes the salt in our wounds.
John Wooden once said, “Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time.” The other team ended up with one more point…our team simply ran out of time. Yet they still won the realization that no matter how hard you fight, sometimes you lose. And for that moment a door is shut, but you don’t let it stop you.
Sam went home that day and practiced his free-throws knowing there would be another opportunity, another chance, another moment to knock down a big shot. These are the characteristics that make true winners. Fighters.
The type of people you want in your life when everything’s on the line.
Written by: Lindsay Mastergeorge