by Kevin Horner, guest columnist
Blistered hands, embarrassing failures, consistent disappointment.
The struggles in my quest to dunk a basketball began to become overwhelming. From the first moment when the ridges of the smooth Spalding basketball graced my hands with its incredible texture, I set my sights on a distant goal: to dunk a basketball on a 10-foot hoop.
It was no mystery why I made this my goal: I grew up with brothers while watching NBA stars such as Kevin Garnett slam the orange ball down with ease. To me, the absolute quintessence of “cool” was the ability to rise up and dunk.
Being a third grader who stretched to four-foot, six inches on a good day, this goal seemed a bit far-fetched. However, as I watched my oldest brother grow to be six-foot-five, confidence became instilled in me that my height would not be a restriction in the fulfillment of my goal.
As the years passed, my genetics proved themselves worthy, and I grew to surpass all my previous expectations. By my junior year of high school, I had eclipsed the six-foot-four mark, hopeful of elongating one more mere inch to reach the height of my brother, who dunked right in front of my eyes.
He had only accomplished this feat in practice, never in a game; thus, naturally, my second oldest brother, who was only six foot three, set out to dunk in a game. However, one thing he failed to understand was that perfection of the dunk in practice was an essential prerequisite for dunking in a live-action game.
This ignorance resulted an experience not worth remembering.
The game was tied, I was playing for my high school team, Southwest Christian, and Lester Prairie were battling for momentum. As an admiring sophomore, I sat on the bench and gazed upon my brother, a senior, as he dribbled on a fast break, eyes glistening in anticipation of what he was about to attempt. No one expected it. No one wanted him to try. Clank! The sound of the ball being rejected by the front rim and flying into the other teams’ hands was immediately followed by laughter and the mocking voices of the Lester Prairie student section.
He missed. Our coach got over-heated.
That same coach looked on as I attempted day after day to perfect the dunk. My coach never encouraged my attempts, for his mind traveled back to the damage that my brother had done with his momentum-shifting miss.
Despite his resistance, I pressed on. Eyes set on the fame that I assumed would come upon me from my small school of 218 pupils.
Everyone knew everyone in my school, so I was cognizant of the fact that my accomplishment would not go unnoticed if I was successful. A couple of close friends of mine had already perfected the dunk, and other friends doubted my abilities to match their skill. I was often criticized for my pointless pursuit, for a dunk did not win a basketball game.
However, to me, this feat was for more than just the two points the basket would earn. It was about fulfilling a lifelong dream. It was about persevering and overcoming doubt. It was about implanting confidence in myself for the future. It was more than just a dunk.
Every day after practice, I would build up enough adrenaline for roughly five or six dunk attempts. Practice after practice, I grew closer and closer to my goal, but still fell short. The first week it was grabbing the rim. The next week it was grabbing the rim with two hands. My accomplishments progressed to the point of eventually being able to dunk a volleyball. I was closer than I had ever been to accomplishing my dream; I could already taste it.
Then it happened.
It had been a good day in the classrooms of Southwest Christian and my abilities in practice after school were sharp. I was confident; I was energized. Somewhere, deep within my inmost being, I knew today was the day.
I called over my coach and simply uttered three words, “This is it.” I snatched the stickiest ball I could find and carried it back behind the three-point line, heart pounding. I looked down at my calloused hands and looked up at the seemingly giant basketball hoop. This was it, the end of all my disappointment, the moment for which I had waited over nine years. I approached the hoop at a brisk pace, dribbling with my right hand as my comrades anxiously awaited my endeavor. I palmed the ball with my right hand and leaped into the air. The jump was perfection. The ball was held tightly captive in my hand. All that remained was the finish, the previously ominous finish; this time, the glorious finish.
My teammates erupted in cheers and my coach applauded and emitted a satisfied smile. I had done it. The little third grade boy with a dream had persevered and achieved his goal.
The time has now come for the birth of another dream.
Kevin Horner is a high school student at Southwest Christian High School, Chaska, Minnesota.