A statement was certainly made that night: A person’s true character is on display when they think no one is watching.
t The sitting league MVP was about to set a career and franchise high with 61 points. All of the sports world was abuzz talking about the “statement” game by LeBron James. A lot of people will say they were there that night; I actually was, and here’s why I’ll never forget it.
t During halftime a young girl’s voice called out to me, “Excuse me Miss.” I turned to see who was trying to get my attention and I saw a wide-eyed girl with her father holding her close to him. I smiled as I started over to greet them, but there were no smiles coming back to me. The young girl, we’ll call her Suzie, looked to be scared. I wasn’t sure what I was walking into, so I just said “Hi!” Suzie looked to be about 10. She tried to get herself together, but before she could tell me what was wrong, her father started: “She’s a High-Fiver, and they won’t let her on the court. That’s her team, and she’s the only one that’s not with the group.” I looked in the direction the father pointed in. I saw two lines of kids waiting to high-five the Miami Heat players as they ran onto the court from the locker room. They were all about Suzie’s size and they were wearing the same blue team jersey. Now I understood what that look was in her eyes: disappointment. A young basketball fan got the chance to go to an NBA game to watch the two-time defending champions play at home. She, no doubt, was expecting the experience of her young lifetime. A prime position on the actual playing court while getting to high-five the stars of the game she played and loved. I told Suzie and her father, “I don’t work here, but let me see what I can do.”
t I went to the first member of the security team that I saw. He was a very tall man, but I was not intimidated. I explained Suzie’s story. The man was not impressed. He pointed over to a woman taking pictures of the High-Fivers, and told me she was in charge. I looked back at Suzie and I could tell she was getting more and more anxious. The players were starting to come out of the locker room and run between the two rows of Suzie’s teammates giving out high-fives. I rushed over to the woman in charge. She was even less impressed than the very tall security team member. She very politely told me that all the kids have to be down by the basketball court ready to go at the designated time. If the kids are not in place on time, no high-fives. I tried to reason with the woman in charge, to no avail.
t I hated to face Suzie and her father. As I approached them, I tried to soften the blow with my facial expression to signal I had no success. “I’m sorry, it’s too late,” I told Suzie. Her eyes began to well up. Her father pulled her closer to him and squeezed. I said, “I’m really sorry, I don’t even work here, I’m with the Bobcats. I tried, but no luck, sorry.” I turned to walk away from Suzie and her father. My heart broke a little for her.
t Then I saw an opportunity to possibly salvage this young fan’s game experience. Players from The Miami Heat were now warming up on the court. The player in the closest proximity to me was Chris Bosh. He is one of “The Big Three” that has won back-to-back championships, and a perennial NBA All-Star. I yelled out, “Chris!” He turned to speak. As I approached I said, “Hey! This little girl is supposed to be out there with her team high-fiving, but they won’t let her on the court. Can you say hi to her?” Chris picked up the basketball he was about to shoot and started looking around. “Where is she?” he asked. I nodded my head in the direction of Suzie and her father standing at the corner of the court behind me. “Can you just wave to her and say hi?” Chris began waving in the direction of my head nod with a big smile on his face. He must have locked eyes with the distraught and teary-eyed Suzie. Without any hesitation, nine-time All-Star and two-time NBA Champion Chris Bosh was making his way over to Suzie. By this time Suzie had not been able to hold back her tears of disappointment. I know I saw at least two escape. Chris Bosh stood right in front of Suzie with his right arm extended and hand raised (with a bent elbow of course; Chris Bosh stands almost seven feet tall).
t The lone absent High-Fiver got a solo, more personal high-five from one of the stars that plays the game she loves. Suzie allowed a big smile to replace her tears. Her father looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. Chris returned to the court to continue shooting before the second half began. “Thanks Chris,” I said; “Thanks a lot, that was awesome!” Chris’s smile was just as big as Suzie’s. He said, “Oh of course, no problem.” Suzie got her high-five and her father got some relief. As I watched Suzie and her dad return to their seats, he mouthed to me, “thank you”. He still had his arm tight around his daughter, and you could still feel the emotions… only this time it was joy we were all experiencing, not pain.
t A statement was certainly made that night: A person’s true character is on display when they think no one is watching. There were no cameras or reporters around (other than myself) to capture the moment when an NBA All-Star and Champion was able to turn a little girl’s frown upside down. When was the last time you went out of your way to make a complete stranger smile?