Sunday, July 21 2024 - 5:42 AM
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Playing for My Grandfather

When I was 11 years old, my maternal grandfather moved from New York to Loma Linda, California, to stay with my family. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and wanted to be close to family in the time he had left. I loved all of my grandparents, but we became inseparable when he moved in with us.

My grandfather loved everything about New York; all the shows, celebrities, and, of course, all the sports teams. We loved the same teams and watched games together every night. I spent hours watching basketball with him and fell in love with the game. 

I had a dream of earning a scholarship to play basketball in college, and my grandfather was my biggest supporter and motivator. He would take me to practice and offered to help me with my workouts by timing my drills and rebounding while I would shoot. He believed in me and always pushed me to be the best I could be. After each game, he would say, “Isaiah, how many points did you score? Did you get 20 points? You gotta get 20 points every game if you want to get a scholarship.”

On the Way

In the spring of my sophomore year in high school, I did not have any college offers. I was good, not great, but had a strong work ethic and desire to develop into elite talent. My team was on our way to a three-day tournament in San Diego that was expected to be attended by many college coaches. This was going to be one of the most significant opportunities I had to showcase my ability. The drive was about four hours long, so I decided to take a nap and rest before the long weekend.

While we were still about an hour away, the team van stopped at a gas station to fill up and allow players to use the restroom. My father, one of our coaches, woke me up from a nap to tell me my grandfather had passed away. While his death was an eventual possibility, it came much sooner than expected. I was in complete shock. I did not want to hear that someone I loved and respected was no longer with us. All I wanted to do was get off the bus and head home. I wanted to be with the rest of my family to grieve.

Dedicating the Tournament

While I was still crying in the back of the bus, my father reminded me of a magnet that my grandfather kept on his fridge. It was from 1 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” My grandfather’s favorite verse convinced me that he wanted me to succeed more than anything else, and I know that my grandfather would have wanted me to play in this tournament. I focused on the thought that he would be proud of me, and I dedicated the match to him.

When we finally arrived at the tournament, there was absolute chaos. College coaches filled the gymnasium, and reporters and camera crews were everywhere. I had never experienced anything on a scale like this. I was the youngest player on my team and had only scored 20 points or more a handful of times. Extremely nervous to almost vomiting before our first game, I felt like I did not belong there. But, when I stepped onto the court, everything felt familiar.

Fueled by my heightened emotions and the excitement of the tournament, I played better than I had ever before. I scored 30 points in our first game, my career high. Then I hit a game-winning shot in another game. I ended the tournament averaging 23 points per game and made the All-Tournament team.

What Matters Most

I later averaged 20 points per game as a senior in high school, made the All-Area Team for the tri-county area, scored over 1,000 points for my high school career, and earned a scholarship to play basketball in college. My grandfather never got to see my elevated success as an athlete while still living, but he believed in me and pushed me to do things I never knew I was capable. 

It hasn’t been the same since he’s been gone, and to this day, I attribute his inspiration to my athletic successes, but I remember that day when I truly understood my faith. Each experience teaches us that in life there will be highs and lows, but what matters most is the end game—eternity in heaven.

If you liked this, you might also like The Value of Grandparents 

Isaiah Taylor writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Isaiah Taylor

Isaiah Taylor

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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