If you had to choose one word to describe Kevin, it might be «slow.» Kevin didn’t learn his ABCs as fast as other kids. He never came in first in the schoolyard races. However, Kevin had a special rapport with people. His bright smile and big heart won him plenty of friends.
When Kevin discovered that the pastor at his church, Randy Jessen, was putting together a boys basketball team, his mother let him participate. And soon basketball became a center of Kevin’s life. He worked hard at practice. While the other boys practiced dribbling and lay-ups, Kevin shot baskets. He had a special spot near the free throw line. He threw and threw the ball, and it occasionally went in! When that happened, Kevin raised his arms and shouted, «Look at me, Coach!»
The day before their first game, Coach Randy gave each player a bright red jersey. Kevin was number 12. He scrambled himself into the sleeves and wore that jersey almost every day. One Sunday morning, the church service was interrupted by Kevin’s excited voice. «Look, Coach!» He lifted his gray wool sweater to reveal the red jersey underneath with number 12 on the front. Nobody minded the interruption; the church knew Kevin and loved him.
I’d like to be able to tell you that the team did well. Actually, they never won a game that season – except for the night it snowed and the other team never showed up. At the end of the season, the boys played in the church league’s tournament. As the last-place team, they drew the unfortunate spot of playing against the first-place team — boys who had never lost a game all year.
The game went as expected, and near the end of the fourth quarter Kevin’s team stood nearly 30 points behind. It was then that one of the boys called timeout. «Coach,» he said, «this is our last game and Kevin’s never made a basket. I think we should let him make a basket.» The team agreed. Kevin was instructed to stand at his special place near the free throw line and wait. He was told that when he was given the ball, he should shoot.
Kevin was ecstatic. He ran to the floor and waited. When the ball was passed to him he shot — and missed. Number 17 from the other team snatched the rebound, dribbled down the court for an easy lay-up. But a moment later Kevin got the ball again. He shot — and missed. Number 17 repeated his performance for another two points. Kevin shot a third and fourth time with the same result.
But then the other team seemed to figure out what was going on and the next time they snatched the rebound, they threw it to Kevin! Kevin shot…and missed. But now every rebound came to him and he threw and threw toward the basket.
BOTH teams had circled Kevin by this time and all of the boys were shouting, «Kevin! Kevin!» The crowd took up the chant. Soon everyone in the gym was shouting for Kevin! Coach Randy was sure the game should have been over by this time and he glanced at the clock. It was stopped at 4.3 seconds! The timekeepers were standing by their table shouting with the crowd, «Kevin! Kevin!» The world had stopped for Kevin. He shot and shot and finally one of his shots took a crazy bounce on the rim and…went in! Chaos reigned! Everyone stood and cheered as if one boy had single-handedly won a world championship. Kevin’s arms sprang up in the air and he shouted, «I won! I won!» His team escorted him off the court, the clock ticked down and the game was over
That day an undefeated team retained their perfect record. But everybody won. Everybody! Because everybody had participated in a crazy conspiracy of kindness, a simple act of mercy, that was so compelling, so powerful, that I’m sure all of heaven rejoiced!