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Basketball Player Purposely Misses Free Throws

When Johntell Franklin's mother lost her battle with cancer on February 7, 2009, no one was surprised to hear that Franklin, a senior forward for the Milwaukee Madison High School basketball team (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), was not going to play in his team's game that day against DeKalb High School (DeKalb, Illinois).

But then he showed up.

Midway through the second quarter, Franklin walked into the gym, ready to play. The only problem was that his name hadn't been entered into the scorebook. That meant that if Franklin took the floor, his team would be assessed a technical—two free throws for the DeKalb team. Aaron Womack Jr., coach of Milwaukee Madison, and Dave Rohlman, coach of DeKalb, both met with the game's referee, begging the referee to make an exception to the rules. Though the referee was sympathetic to the situation, he stressed that the rules had to be followed, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. That's when something truly special happened. When the referee would not budge, DeKalb's Darius McNeal volunteered to shoot the two free throws. When he turned to make his way to the line, Coach Rohlman called out, "You realize you're going to miss, right?" McNeal nodded.

McNeal went to the line, the referee handed him the basketball, and he set his feet to take the shot. But instead of a perfectly executed free throw, McNeal shot the ball just two feet in front of him, and the ball slowly bounced out of bounds. The referee picked the ball up, handed it back to McNeal, and McNeal did the same thing for the second shot. The crowd responded with a standing ovation. Later, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, McNeal said, "I did it for the guy who lost his mom. It was the right thing to do."

Moved by the gesture of the DeKalb team, Coach Womack wrote a letter to the DeKalb Daily Chronicle, saying, "You should all feel immense pride for the remarkable job that the coaching staff is doing in not only coaching these young men, but teaching them how to be leaders." He added—tongue in cheek—"I'd like to recognize Darius who stepped up to miss the shot on purpose. … I hope Coach Rohlman doesn't make him run [laps]."

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