It won’t go down in history as the greatest basketball game ever played.
There were no game-winning heroics or a buzzer-beating shot. None of the players was carried off the court on the shoulders of their teammates.
But those who were there to see it ... or heard about it later ... or will read about it now ... will never forget it.
Especially when they learn the rest of the story.
Cooper Baskette has the perfect last name for the game he plays. He is 11 years old and a fifth-grader at Stratford Academy.
On the night of Feb. 12, his Raptors were playing the Hornets for the championship of the Upward Basketball League at Ingleside Baptist Church.
In the game’s final minutes, the Raptors were losing badly. Even though the score was out of reach, Cooper was still playing hard. With less than a minute left on the clock, he grabbed a defensive rebound off the backboard, his brown hair flopping across his head.
Instead of racing down the court to try and score, Cooper passed the ball to No. 13 on the Hornets. He was standing there, a few feet from the basket.
“Shoot it!” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Shoot it!!!”
Federico Brown was the tiniest kid on the court, all of 4-foot-4 in his high-tops. He was two heads shorter than both Cooper and Will Green, the star player for the Hornets.
Cooper had heard the crowd reacting to Federico the entire game, holding its collective breath as he put up shot after shot, none of them going in. Everybody in the gym, it seemed, was pulling for the little guy.
What Cooper didn’t realize was that Federico hadn’t scored a point all season. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried. He had practiced shooting in his driveway. But every time he got in a game, the taller boys would swat away his shots.
Federico may be diminutive, but he is a smart cookie. He skipped the third grade and is captain of his quiz bowl team at Taylor Elementary. (He recently won the Cub Scout Troop No. 8 Pinewood Derby at Riverside United Methodist Church.)
Last year, he participated in a younger league at Ingleside that competes on 8-foot baskets. But this season he wanted to play with his classmates and friends, even though he just turned 9 on Dec. 29.
The 10-foot goals were a huge adjustment. He kept trying. He never gave up.
“Shoot it,” Cooper encouraged him.
Fred Brown had walked over to that end of the court in the game’s closing minutes, hoping to take a photograph of his son scoring his first basket.
But his cell phone camera cut off before he could capture the expression on Federico’s face as the jump shot floated through the net with less than a minute on the clock.
Fred admits he would have had a hard time focusing through all his tears anyway.
After the game, Federico and his undefeated Hornets were presented with championship trophies. Cooper and the Raptors received runner-up medals.
Deeply moved by Cooper’s display of sportsmanship, Fred later wrote a letter to the editor, which appeared in Wednesday’s Telegraph.
“My son will always remember that shot,” he wrote. “It marks the entire season and cements his love of the game. And it happened because another young man also loves the game and wanted to help someone younger experience the same excitement.”
But here is the rest of the story.
After the game, another player for the Hornets, Chandler Cawley, a fourth-grader at First Presbyterian Day School, rode home clutching his championship trophy.
He knew Cooper. They were not what you would consider close friends. Although they once lived in the same neighborhood, they were in different grades at different schools. And, of course, they played on different teams.
But Cooper’s act of kindness had made a huge impression on Chandler.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” he said.
That night, at bedtime, he went to his parents, Chris and Courtney Cawley.
“I don’t deserve this trophy,” he said. “I want to give it to Cooper.”
Friday morning, after dropping off her son at FPD, Courtney dropped by the Baskettes’ house.
She left the trophy in small rocking chair on the porch. A note from Chandler was attached.
“Dear Cooper,” he wrote. “Thank you for doing that for Fredrico (sic). You have a very kind heart. If I was losing, I would not have done that. So please have this. From Chandler. No. 4.”
When David Baskette found the trophy on the porch, he called his wife, Courtney, and read her the note.
He cried. She cried.
It seems a lot of folks have been having a good cry over this one -- with an emphasis on the good.
“We are so proud of Chandler,” David said. “What he did was very special. Cooper is competitive, and we love that. But there is another side to it.”
Years from now, Cooper’s coaches probably won’t be happy if he passes the ball to a player on the other team. And Chandler’s teammates won’t understand if he keeps giving away his trophies.
But lessons like these never go out of season.
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org