SI Vault
Grady Jim Robinson
January 15, 1990
Last winter, 5'3" Chris Robinson was seeing limited action with the basketball team at Sheridan (Ark.) Junior High School. As any 14-year-old would, he wanted to get off the bench and into the games. So each day after practice he worked by himself in the gym—shooting, dribbling and shooting some more.
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January 15, 1990

Going Behind His Back To Get Into The Limelight

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He would watch, a little jealously, as some fortunate ticket holder walked to the midcourt stripe and was given three attempts to sink one. No one made the shot. No one even came close.

It was the last game of the '88 season, on Feb. 14, and Chris sat in the bleachers with his ticket stubs spread out before him. He had continued to practice his special shot. He felt confident that he could hit one out of three attempts. He wanted at least to get a chance. By now, he was bargaining for ticket stubs, promising a percentage of the $25 to ticket holders. The opportunity to try his shot before most of the 3,300 population of Sheridan meant far more than a savings bond. He listened for the numbers. He thought he heard one of them called!

Chris scanned his stubs frantically. He didn't see the number. He went through them again. Surely he had it! But no.

His heart sank. Then, an older boy a few rows back said, "Hey, Chris, I've got it. There's no way I'm going out there and try that shot. Do you want it?"

Chris scampered up the bleachers, grabbed the ticket and ran down to the court, where he handed the ticket stub to halftime announcer Don Campbell. Campbell looked at the ticket stub, smiled and handed Chris the basketball. He took the ball and looked at the goal. He looked at the crowd and saw mostly familiar faces, their attention turned to center court.

"Make it, Chris!" someone yelled from the section where all the junior high kids sat for home games. As Chris smiled and bounced the ball, a parade of scenes and thoughts flashed through his mind. His season with the junior high basketball team had been pretty disappointing, and he had even considered giving up the game and concentrating on golf; after all, he had been the top player in the Arkansas junior golf program three times. Finally he decided to stay with it. Golf was one thing, but basketball, football and baseball, those were the sports with the crowds, the cheerleaders and the school buses to other towns on Friday evenings. They were the essence of high school sports.

Chris slowly turned the ball in his hand. He saw Courtney standing near the goal, watching him. She had her fingers crossed. Chris bounced the basketball and carefully placed both heels on the edge of the half-court stripe. The crowd, not knowing what was going on, assumed he was facing the wrong goal. A voice bellowed, "Hey, Chris! Turn around, you're shootin' at the wrong basket!"

But when it became apparent that Chris knew precisely what he was doing, there were a few whoops and shouts of encouragement as the crowd, intrigued by this strange alignment, watched. The gymnasium grew quiet.

Taking a deep breath, Chris twisted around for one last look at the basket. Then he turned and looked at the basket that faced him. He looked to both sides, measuring. He paused, and then, holding the ball in both hands, dipped it between his knees, almost to the floor. The father of one of the high school cheerleaders had been videotaping the scene. He pointed the camera at Chris.

Chris launched the ball toward the goal. "It looked awfully funny," said Charles Whitworth, a former football coach who is now principal of the junior high. "But Chris had found himself a way to get enough leverage to get it there. When he walked out on the court I had this feeling that something was about to happen. You could see it in his eyes."

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