Intentionally Missing Free Throws: What a Great Story!

>> Thursday, February 19, 2009

I had to share this story about a high-school basketball team whose coach and players knew that they had to MISS the 2 free throws they were about to attempt. If this doesn’t make you stir a little, then you might be dead inside. Here’s how the story goes:

It was a Saturday night in February, and the Barbs [from DeKalb, Illinois] were playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison. It was the third meeting between the two schools, who were developing a friendly rivalry that spanned two states.

The teams planned to get together after the game and share some pizzas and soda. But the game itself almost never took place.

Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin died at a local hospital. Carlitha Franklin had been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer, but she began to hemorrhage that morning while Johntel was taking his college ACT exam.

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.

"She was young and they were real close," said Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr., who was at the hospital. "He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn't have time to grieve."

Womack 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.

Early in the second quarter, Womack saw someone out of the corner of his eye. It was Franklin, who came there directly from the hospital to root his teammates on.

The Knights had possession, so Womack called a time out. His players went over and hugged their grieving teammate. Fans came out of the stands to do the same.

"We got back to playing the game and I asked if he wanted to come and sit on the bench," Womack said during a telephone interview.

"No," Franklin replied. "I want 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, Womack 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, Rohlman wasn't so willing to take them. He told the referees to forget the technical and just let Franklin play.

"I could hear them arguing for five to seven minutes, saying, `We're not taking it, we're not taking it," Womack said. "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."

I don’t even remember reading who won. It really doesn’t matter.

What a great coach! What amazing young men! If I would have been there in person, I would have been on my feet applauding the away team after those 2 deliberate misses with tears streaming down my face. What a heartbreaking / heartwarming story!

(Check out the full story here.)


Lindsay 6:47 PM, February 19, 2009  

what a great story!! thanks for sharing. always awesome to hear of kids (/athletes/people period) having such big hearts.

nwgdc 6:47 PM, February 19, 2009  

I heard this on Mike & Mike in the Morning this AM and welled up a bit. I'm a huuge sucker for stories like this. I like to think it's stuff like this that makes the Midwest what it is to all of us around here!

Amy - the gazelle 6:49 PM, February 19, 2009  

now i'm all choked up! dammit!

J 7:00 PM, February 19, 2009  

Wow I got goosebumps just reading that! Thanks for sharing!

Unknown 7:13 PM, February 19, 2009  

I'm from DeKalb and it is a HUGE story here locally. I heard about it right after it happened, ironically on a long run with my running group. Seems that ESPN was out here 2 days ago and then AP picked up the story as well.

Unfortunately, another DeKalb County high school is in the spotlight now with a bathroom incident at a visiting basketball game.

Missy 7:29 PM, February 19, 2009  

Thanks for making me bawl like a baby!!! ...nice free shit you got there, sorry I couldn't get you the car:) Discount offer always stands!

Unknown 7:57 PM, February 19, 2009  

Awesome story. Tears here as well. Stuff like this reminds me that there is hope for this race we call human.

Jess 8:49 PM, February 19, 2009  

Wow what a really great story!

chia 9:07 PM, February 19, 2009  

That's so sweet :-). Thanks Steve!

I Run for Fun 9:16 PM, February 19, 2009  

Such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown 9:25 PM, February 19, 2009  

I read that story too. Very touching.

CoachLiz 10:23 PM, February 19, 2009  

I read about this earlier on Yahoo and I almost cried.

Oh, I am putting up the answers to your interview questions.

Run For Life 11:12 PM, February 19, 2009  

Oh man that's definitely a bitter-sweet story. Good for them. 12:54 AM, February 20, 2009  

Ya, I would have been sobbing...already crying over here...but I am sappy...Extreme Home Makeover ALWAYS gets me.

That and Hallmark commercials, like the one where the lady always checks her mailbox and nothing is there and then the neighbor sends her a card...crying again..damn!

C 1:42 AM, February 20, 2009  

Amazing. Every time I lose faith in the younger generations, a story like this pops up and I change my mind. Thanks, Steve.

Ordinarylife 2:36 AM, February 20, 2009  

Hmph, thanks a lot!
Now I am sitting in my office with my makeup runnind down my face!

What an amazing story.

Anonymous,  6:39 AM, February 20, 2009  

Great story. Thanks for sharing. What a great show of sportsmanship.

Rachel 8:06 AM, February 20, 2009  

Wow...what an amazing story. Just brought me to tears. It shows that people really do care about one another. My bf's brother died recently in a snowmobile accident and it has been overwhelming to see the great outreach from people.

trimybest 8:43 AM, February 20, 2009  

i like good sportsmanship. thats one of the reasons i love triathlons and marathons. it feels good to have a person you pass cheer you on and i always make a point to do the same.

Badgergirl 1:14 PM, February 20, 2009  

I read that a few days ago at work. Had to hold back the tears. Amazing story.

X-Country2 1:39 PM, February 20, 2009  

Aww what a great story. Points for America's youth!

sRod 7:33 AM, February 21, 2009  

Thanks for restore a little bit of my faith in people.

sRod 7:33 AM, February 21, 2009  

Thanks for restore a little bit of my faith in people.

Kelly 8:28 PM, February 22, 2009  

YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS! This happened in my market!

Darcy Franklin 9:51 PM, February 22, 2009  

Check out this inspiration basketball story...


RooBabs 4:35 PM, February 23, 2009  

Dang you, Steve! I come here expecting to laugh, not to get all teary-eyed. What a great story, though, and it definitely gives me hope in today's youth.

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