One-Legged Basketball Player

14 year old Mark Haley was already a basketball star. He had broken every scoring record at his school and was on his way to becoming a legend. That was before…

…before the accident. He was with 4 of his friends – heading into town for a night at the movies. They were all laughing and talking when the car hit an icy patch, spun out of control, and slammed into the guardrail. Mark was catapulted from the rear window.

When the state patrol arrived, Mark was sitting on the side of the road, staring at a torrent of blood gushing from his right thigh. His right leg, severed through by a guardrail cable, was just five feet away.

Surgery saved his life but it couldn’t save his leg. Mark’s first words were, “What about my basketball career?” He already had big plans for playing college ball, then becoming a pro. The doctors exchanged looks but didn’t have an answer for him.

When he found out his coach and team were in the waiting room he sent a message. “Tell Coach I’ll be back next year.” No one dared defy him but only his parents believed he had a chance to do it.

Mark knew from the beginning that his attitude was everything. “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I don’t really see where that can help.” And, “Instead of being bitter and angry, I’m just going to be positive.”

When he sensed pity from people, his response was always the same. “Don’t feel bad for me. I’ll be just fine.” Then he set out to prove it.

When he returned home his life was physical therapy and tutoring to keep up with his school work. He pushed himself in therapy, ignoring the pain and driving hard to regain his strength and balance. One afternoon, when no one was home, he hobbled out back to the basketball court. He put down his crutches, started hopping on one leg, and began to shoot hoops. Within seconds he lost his balance and crashed to the asphalt. He picked himself up and started again. 15 minutes later he was exhausted, but not defeated.

I guess this is going to take a little longer than I thought…

4 months after the accident he got his first prosthesis. He thought it would make things easier. In fact, it was harder. He drove himself to learn how to walk with his prosthetic leg, then shoot the basketball, then run. His doctors suspected it would be at least a year before he would even walk comfortably with his new leg. They didn’t know Mark.

I’m going to have to work even harder. I just can’t give up.

Slowly he got better but whenever he tried to push himself on the basketball court, he usually just crashed to the ground. The thought came to him that maybe he just couldn’t do it, but he just as quickly pushed it down. He just had to work harder.

He began a daily regimen of shooting, dribbling and weight lifting. The effort left huge blisters on his leg from the prosthetic but he ignored it and pushed on – buoyed by the knowledge he was making progress. What was a little pain?

That fall, against all odds, Mark Haley made the basketball team. And he made it, secure in the knowledge he had earned it. No one had worked harder than he had during tryouts. The whole team cheered when he was elected team captain.

His first game started out as a disaster. He was jerky and awkward, shooting off balance, and throwing up air balls. His rhythm was totally off. The coach called him out for a breather, then put him back in with just a few minutes left in the half.

Come on, Mark. This is what you’ve worked for. Show them you can do it!

Seconds later he worked himself free, received a pass, and put up a long 3-pointer. The stands erupted. Then he drove to the basket, pulled down a rebound, and muscled it back up to the board, scoring again.

Mark was back.

Mark chose to turn what could have been a disaster into a victory. He determined to be positive and to do whatever it took to accomplish his goals. He went on to play high school basketball and tennis. He is now a college basketball coach. No one on his team ever makes excuses – they wouldn’t dare. Not a one of them has to play with one leg.

Everyone has limitations. Everyone has problems. Everyone has things in their life that stands as an obstacle to reaching their dreams. The ones who succeed are the ones who decide to. Who decide to not let anything stop them. Who decide to do whatever it takes to make their dreams come true.

You can do that, too.

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