Sportsmanship Amongst Grief

I found a great story today on my sports forum. It's playoff season and everyone is waiting for the brackets to come out but in Illinois some character has risen amongst competition. A Delkalb Ill. basketball had traveled over two hours to make it to their basketball game only to arrive and still have to wait an hour to play. Most of the opposing team where at the hospital with their teammate.

During his college ACT exam Johntel Franklin's mother had taken a turn for the worst at the hospital. She was hemmorraging as a result of her 5 year fight with cervical cancer. This time she lost. Her son and several of his teammates were at the hospital late that afternoon when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system. Carlitha Franklin was just 39. He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn't have time to grieve.

His coach was going to cancel the game, but Franklin told him he wanted the team to play. And play they did, even though the game started late and Milwaukee Madison dressed only eight players. During the second quarter Johntel Franklin arrived at the game. He came there directly from the hospital to root his teammates on.
The Knights had possession, so his coach called a time out. His players went over and hugged their grieving teammate. Fans came out of the stands to do the same. He told his coach that he wanted to play.

There was just one problem. Since Franklin wasn't on the pre-game roster, putting him in meant drawing a technical foul that would give DeKalb two free throws.

Though it was a tight game, and the coach was willing to give up the two points. It was more important to help his senior guard and co-captain deal with his grief by playing.

Over on the other bench, though, the team wasn't so willing to take them. The opposing coach told the referees to forget the technical and just let Franklin play. The refs told them, "no, that's the rule. You have to take them."

That's when Rohlman asked for volunteers, and McNeal's hand went up.

He went alone to the free throw line, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and looked at the rim.

His first attempt went about two feet, bouncing a couple of times as it rolled toward the end line. The second barely left his hand.

It didn't take long for the Milwaukee players to figure out what was going on.

They stood and turned toward the DeKalb bench and started applauding the gesture of sportsmanship. Soon, so did everybody in the stands.

"I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was the right thing to do."

Franklin would go on to score 10 points, and Milwaukee Madison broke open the game in the second half to win 62-47. Afterward, the teams went out for pizza, two players from each team sharing each pie. Carlitha Franklin's funeral was last Friday, and the school turned out for her and her son. Cheerleaders came in uniform, and everyone from the principal and teachers to Johntel's classmates were there.

"We have a losing record but there's life lessons going on, good ones."

None so good, though, as the moment a team and a player decided there were more important things than winning and having good stats.

Yes, DeKalb would go home with a loss. But it was a trip they'll never forget.

"This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime," Rohlman said. "They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they'll remember what happened in that gym that night."

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