True Champions Win In Lots of Ways

Posted on March 19, 2018 in Morton

A friend sent this to me and I thought it was an important story…

This week, college basketball’s March Madness began. Sixty-eight teams began a single elimination tournament that will result in the crowning of a national champion on April 2nd in the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.

However, this message is not about the historic upset by UMBC of Virginia or the Cinderella Loyola of Chicago team but instead what happened in a game played in Iowa City, Iowa less than a month ago.

Jordan Bohannon is a sophomore guard on the University of Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team. He is an outstanding shooter and made over 90% of his free throws this year. But in a game in late February against Northwestern, he became a legend as he taught an important lesson of life.

Jordan went to the free throw line late in the contest to shoot a free throw. He had made 34 consecutive free throws and was tied for the all-time school record. One more made free throw and he would break the school record that had stood for over 25 years. What did he do?

He pointed to the ceiling of the arena and shot the ball.

He missed.

Intentionally.

Shortly thereafter, he was fouled again and calmly went to the free throw line and swished his next two free throws.

After the game, Bohannon was asked why he missed the free throw attempt. His answer, “That’s not my record to have. This record deserves to stay in his name.”

The person to whom he was referring to was Chris Street.

Street was a junior forward for the Hawkeyes. He was tragically killed in a car accident in January 1993, when his car collided with a snow plow in Iowa City. Street had made the last 34 free throws of his life.

The back story on Street is even more compelling. Street came to Iowa as only a fair shooter. But he worked hard to become much better and at the time of his death held the school’s consecutive free throw record. More importantly, Street was a special player. His enthusiasm, willingness to battle taller players, dives to the floor to recover a loose ball and hustle would lift the Hawkeyes to play at a higher level and the fans to appreciate his determination and contribution.

Street’s last game was against Duke, a team that had beaten Iowa in the preceding 2 years in the NCAA tournament. Playing in Duke’s gym, Duke won yet Iowa fought hard and his play and unwillingness to give an inch to the defending national champions was on full display. After the game, Duke’s Coach K told him “It was an honor to play against you”. Later, in the post-game interviews, Coach K said. “In the military, he was the kind of guy you’d want to lead you into battle. He was the leader you followed not just because of courage but because of intelligence. I’ll bet every coach he ever faced would say the same thing: I’d have loved to have coached him.”

Outside the Iowa locker room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a memorial to Street and each year the Chris Street award is given to the Hawkeye who best exemplifies his spirit and intensity. His Iowa jersey number 40 was retired in 1993 and hangs in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. On January 19, 2018, the Hawkeyes honored Street on the 25th anniversary of his death by draping a number 40 Iowa jersey over an empty chair on the floor at the Iowa basketball game. Next to the empty chair sat Tom Davis, Street’s head coach during his time at Iowa and his parents.

At the Northwestern game were Street’s parents, who came to support Bohannon and watch their son’s record be broken.

The intentional miss by Bohannon was his way of honoring Street and to ensure that Street’s name and legacy remained on the school record at Iowa.

What could have been going thru Bohannon’s mind as he stepped to the free throw line? One more made free throw and he would have the school record alone, his name etched in the history of the program. Who knows how many more free throws he could make and his record may last another 25 years.

But like all records, that record would be broken, and someone would remove his name and replace it with their own. However, with his act of humility, Jordan Bohannon did something that could never be taken from him and will be long remembered after all of the records in the Iowa record book have been broken.

Doing something for others just because you can leaves an impact. A perfect example was Jordan Bohannon’s selfless and humble way of honoring Chris Street.

It also reminds us of the importance of humility. What you say is important but what you do is what defines you.