Hello and good day!
Did you ever hear the expression "you can't kick a lucky goal if you aren't on the field"?
It is one of my favorite expressions, because it has proven true so many times in my life. I played basketball growing up and I was a decent basketball player. I wasn't the best, but I wasn't a bench warmer either.
On most of the teams I played for, we usually had at least one guy who wasn't supposed to shoot. He'd get playing time as a defensive specialist or somebody who could grab rebounds. From time to time, he'd get a bucket on a layup after pulling down an offensive board. But as for catching and shooting, it wasn't something that this guy was supposed to do.
In particular, I remember a fellow named Jim who was on a team I played for. We called him "Big Jim" even though in retrospect I've come to realize that he wasn't very big. I believe that he came by that nickname because he had a thick mustache at a time when the rest of us were just starting to grow peach fuzz on our faces. The black mustache made him seem older and more mature, even though we were all the same age.
Big Jim used to crack me up because he was always on the ground. That was his modus operandi. He hit the floor. Loose ball? He's on the floor diving for it. Grab a rebound all by himself when nobody is within 5 feet? Somehow, he is going to lean backwards and fall just as he makes the outlet pass.
He was great for taking a charge. An opposing player barely had to brush against him, and he'd fall full weight onto his back. If he ever squared up and took a shot, coach would call a timeout and substitute him out immediately. That was his punishment.
He had just about the ugliest jump shot you could imagine. I couldn't understand how a person could even end up with a shot like that. It was a two-handed affair with both hands holding the ball back behind his head before launching the ball like a catapult from behind his head towards the rim. When he shot, every player on the floor would stand watching, confused, for a moment. The players on our team knew for sure that we needed to run back down to defend because there was no way a shot from Jim could go in.
Coach usually called his timeout to bench Jim before we could make it down court, but better safe than sorry. The other team would stand and watch in wonder, as the ball inevitably sailed far over the rim, or banged high off the backboard.
Even though Jim knew he would get pulled, sometimes he just couldn't help himself. He wanted to take a shot.
Anyhow, one afternoon, we had a game. We'd been playing well in a tournament and found ourselves in a semi-final match against the number one seed. They'd been killing everybody they played. But our coach gave us a pep talk before the game that made us believe we could win.
At half time, we were blowing them out. We were up by twenty. I still remember coach talking to us at halftime.
"These guys are supposed to be one of the best teams in the country and you're dogging them. Don't let up now. Keep pressuring them."
In the second half, their star point guard caught fire and started draining threes. Little by little they fought back into the game until with a couple minutes left, they were only down one.
Coach called a timeout. He decided to put Big Jim on their star player. "Shut him down Jim. But no shooting," said coach. Big Jim was a crowd favorite because of his mustache and his hustle and people thought it was funny how he always hit the ground.
"Let's go big Jim!" shouted a fan from the audience. Big Jim extinguished the star player's hot streak, but unfortunately, we went cold on offense and one of their other players made a couple of clutch baskets.
With about ten seconds to go, we were down 1 point. Coach drew up a play for our best player, a kid named Rashawn. I inbounded to Rashawn. He caught the ball and went around a screen and had a beautiful open look. He floated the ball up in the air and we were all sure it was going in.
Most of us just stood around and watched, but not Jim. The ball hit the back of the rim and bounced long. Big Jim was just outside the key, wrestling with the other team's center who was about 8 inches taller than Jim. Somehow Jim grabbed the ball out of the air while falling to the floor. He bounced back up and looked at the clock.
There were only 4 seconds left. He searched for somebody to pass to, but we were all standing around, lost in time because we thought that Rashawn would sink it. "Shoot it Jim!" shouted coach from the sideline.
Big Jim pivoted towards the basket. It was a short-range jumper from a couple feet outside the key. He went into his shooting motion, cocking the ball with both hands back behind is head. With an unusually soft touch, Jim let the ball go with just one second left on the clock.
The ball floated through the air. Of course, Jim managed to get his feet tangled up after shooting and fell backwards towards the ground.
The buzzer sounded and the ball went in. We all ran over to Jim and dogpiled on top of him. I got to Jim first and felt that thick mustache scraping up against my face inside the dog pile.
We went on to win the championship. Rashawn was the tournament MVP. But
Big Jim was the hero. Grit got him in the game. Fate gave him a chance to have his shining moment.
We were already a year and a half into buying and processing cacao when we found out that we'd accidentally stumbled onto a thought to be extinct variety. We'd made our decision to go into the chocolate business come what may. My brother Brian was out in the jungle living and working and learning day in and day out.
When the opportunity came, we were ready for it. But we didn't know the opportunity was coming. Brian was grinding it out because that is what we knew we had to do. And then we were able to kick a lucky goal that put us on the map.
A lot of life's blessings are like this. You get out there and do your best with little reward until eventually your time comes around and then you get to be a hero for a while.
Thank you so much for your time today. I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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