I remember the day my dad first put up a basketball hoop on our garage.  I shot baskets well into the evening that day, and over the course of the rest of my childhood I’m sure my friends and I logged well over a thousand hours of shooting hoops together.  We played games called “horse” and “around the world” and plenty of one-on-one and two-on-two games, and then we always ended our time together with the same routine.

     This routine involved each of us taking turns pretending it was the last four or five seconds of a tie game, and in our minds it was always a championship game of some sort, where everything was on the line.  One of us would take the basketball and dribble far down the driveway, in order to launch a last second long range shot to win the game.  The drama was enhanced by the fact that another one of us would always pretend to be the television announcer describing the scene to the viewers.   “And here he is dribbling down the court, getting by the defender and launching the potential game winning shot….it’s up….and it’s…….good….and the crowd is going wild!”  If the shot missed, we would simply replay the whole scene as many times as it took to get a successful outcome.  Nothing felt better to we  young boys than walking off the court  hero to the millions of imaginary fans that were watching.

    This past Monday night there were tens of millions of real fans watching a young man from Villanova University live out the fantasy kids have acted out in their driveways and school gyms forever.  With 4.7 seconds to go in the championship game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Ryan Arcidiacono of the Villanova Wildcat’s received an inbound pass under his own basket.  He drove the length of the floor and began to execute a play that was designed for him to take the final shot, as he was one of the team’s best shooters. He was to to take the last shot just as time was running out. But then unexpectedly, he did the smartest thing he could possibly have done.  Because he was well covered by the defense of the North Carolina Tar Heels, at the very last second, insetad of shooting, he passed the ball to his open teammate Kris Jenkins.  With less than a second left on the clock Jenkins released his shot. Amazingly it was “up……and good!” as we used to shout in our driveway when I was a kid! It was a thrilling end to an exciting game and tournament, one basketball fans will long remember.  If you haven’t seen the video of the assist and final shot, you can view it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7FFJUz0tdo

     The most memorable part for me of how Villanova won the championship game was not the last second shot by Jenkins, but the last minute assist-the last minute pass- by his teammate Arcidiacono.   Arcidiacono’s selfless decision, his willingness to pass up the chance to make the game winning shot which would have made him a basketball hero for the ages, is what I most memorable and most inspiring.

    I can assure you that in all the times my friends and I were creating our own last second game dramas, we never had our pretend television announcer say, “And here he is dribbling down the court, about to launch the game winning shot, and he……passes the ball to his teammate so he can take the game winning shot!”  We never realized that the perfect assist could be just as important and memorable as the perfect scoring shot.  Instead we dreamed of the glory of scoring the winning basket and of all the attention and fun it would afford us.

     This is a wellness column, and while everything I have written so far is about basketball, the lesson we can learn here is directly applicable to wellness, most clearly in the health and wellness of our relationships.  When we are willing to make assisting more important than being the “hero” or the center of attention, our relationships will thrive.  To be a good teammate is to put a priority on making lots of assists.  To put it in spiritual terms, the soul seeks to assist, while the ego seeks to score points and be the center of attention.

     As you we look at the important relationships in our lives-in our families and in our communities-it is wise to stop and ask, “How might I focus more on assisting?  Who do I know right now that could benefit from a good assist right?

    In the spirit of Ryan Arcidiacono, may we all be inspired to do the unexpected and make the assist for the good of those around us and for the various teams which we are playing.

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