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In the basketball world, we’ve all heard the phrase, “I want to be like Mike,” of course referring to the desire to be as great at the sport as the infamous Michael Jordan once was. Having a great love for basketball, 15-year-old Michael Menges has voiced this desire repeatedly; the one challenge is that Michael was born with down syndrome.

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Despite this obstacle, Michael, with the help of his school and family, has continued to pursue his dream by playing basketball alongside his brother for the Parkland Lutheran School in Tacoma, Washington. What initially started as a great struggle for Michael has blossomed into a wonderful pastime which allows the youngster to be surrounded by the sport that he loves.

The already heartwarming story amped itself up to new heights last week when Michael, with the help of his opponent, was able to make an epic in-game shot.

With time winding down and the game already decided due to the large lead that Parkland had on their opponent (Bethany Lutheran School), Michael was given an opportunity like never before, being able to not only shoot in-game, but also to try a second time after missing his initial shot.

The crowd’s reaction, and more importantly Michael’s reaction, to the successful shot is beyond heartwarming:

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Due to its competitive nature, it’s easy to get caught up in nothing but winning in the world of sports, but as Michael’s story shows us, sports offer so much more. Teamwork, camaraderie, growth, and — most importantly — fun are just some of the wonderful lessons that all sports can teach.

It’s up to us as participants and viewers to decide how we want to perceive them:

As An Athlete: Allow the competitive element to motivate and drive you to be great, but don’t let it impact how you view the opponent. Respect that they too are playing the sport because they love it, and would find just as much joy in victory as you would.

As A Spectator: Root on your favourite team, but don’t let their outcome impact your mood or behaviour. It’s fun to get excited along with them when they succeed, but to let their performance impact who you are (as someone with no direct bearing on the team) seems to make very little sense.

As an avid sports player and watcher myself, I often have to remind myself that there are two sides to every game and both sides are filled with talented and loving people. That’s why I am always grateful to come across and share heartwarming stories such as this, to remind us all that in the end, it is just a wonderful game we can all have a lot of fun with.


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