The Palisadian-Post has partnered with Paul Revere Charter Middle School to highlight a series of pieces from its 2020 Literary Anthology. The following piece, penned by Mark Lewis, originally appeared in the Autobiographical Narratives section of the anthology, released in spring, and has been reprinted here with permission.
It was a cold but sunny December day in 2018. I was a 6th grader, a mere baby, on the huge 26-acre campus known as Paul Revere Middle School. My 6th grade basketball team was scheduled to play the first game of the season against Crossroads. This game would be unlike any other because my team would be playing LeBron James’s son, Bryce James, who played for the opposing school. Imagine that, my favorite player moved across the country from Cleveland, Ohio to Los Angeles and would soon be on my home turf. LeBron James, also known as arguably the greatest basketball player of all time and a future Hall of Famer, would be in attendance.
Lucky for me, and my team, we got to play in our home gym. This meant, for me, the pressure of being cheered on by the entire school. My coach had informed me that I would have to guard Bryce James because we play the same position. This meant all of my peers would be depending on me to lock him up. The game would take place directly as the final bell of the day rang. I sat anxiously awaiting in my classes as the hours slowly crept by until that starting buzzer would sound off.
School was finally over, and I had to make my way to the gym. As I was walking, I met up with my teammates and felt their nervous energy. This is when we all noticed a sea of people lined up at the front of the gym. It looked like the shoppers who line up for Black Friday. I smelled popcorn that one of the students had while waiting to enter the gym. This popcorn made me extremely hungry, and it was a good distraction from my nerves. It was time for me to get ready so I proceeded to the boys’ locker room to change. As soon as I got into the locker room, I put on my brand new sneakers that I had hoped would bring me good luck for the game. Then, I walked into the gym, the music was blasting, sneakers squeaking, the game was getting ready to begin and my nerves were popping.
The game was about to start and I was told that I would be doing the tip-off against Bryce James. At that moment, I shook his hand and said, “Good luck.” Out of nowhere, I heard the crowd screaming, and LeBron entered the side door of the gym. He was wearing a royal blue jacket that said “More Than an Athlete.” He was as big and sturdy as a house. The referee tossed the ball, I won the tip, but the ball was stolen, and Crossroads scored. After that, it went downhill for my team. Crossroads began to run up the score; they were a better team than we were.
Then, we went down by 10 points. The crowd was chanting against Crossroads but they were playing through the noise. However, I knew they were fallible. I saw this as my opportunity when Bryce went gingerly to the basket. That is when I blocked his shot. The crowd went wild. The students chanted “Mark! Mark! Mark!” At that point, my nerves were flushed away like toilet water. I was locked in, and began to take over. I defensively shut-down Bryce and offensively dominated the second half. I had hoped we were on our way to a comeback.
In the end, we lost to Crossroads. The crowd was still excited by the potential of our comeback. The students stormed the floor and congratulated my teammates and me. While we were cleaning up the gym, I thought to myself that even though the numbers on the scoreboard showed defeat, I had a personal victory, as I overcame my nerves and performed excellently.
I learned that it was okay to be nervous but if I work through it, and forget about it, I can perform at my best, especially in the face of pressure and a mammoth of a man, LeBron.
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