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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Baty!" called the coach, Colin Howeth. "Go in for Malik."
Lyndon was bewildered. "Coach, he's not shooting foul shots."
"Baty, you're playing, go in the game!"
Lyndon walked onto the floor in a daze. Sheri blanched. "What are you doing?" she cried to Howeth, who shrugged and nodded toward his boss ... uh, Sheri's husband.
The opponents, instructed during a timeout to avoid contact with the scrawny sub, watched the ball zip immediately to Lyndon. He took a long ankles-to-cowlick look up the six-footer covering him, then feinted right, darted left and ... collective groan ... missed the layup. Next time down the court he launched a three that rimmed out. The groan grew louder. Clock ticking. Last chance. Pump fake, crossover dribble, drive to the hoop ... yes! The crowd went wild, Lyndon didn't sleep for three nights, and Coach Howeth received a Christmas card: Coach, you made my dream come true!
Life was looking up for Lyndon Louis Baty. He won the district title in Impromptu Speaking when judges served him up a meatball—If you could be anyone, who would you be?—and he crushed it, rattling off a three-minute riff: "Dirk Nowitzki! I could be tall, I could play basketball, and I wouldn't have to wear glasses!"
He was almost too good in his role as assistant to the junior high football coaching staff, a minidynamo driving classmates buggy when he'd lead warmups—"Pump those knees higher! C'mon! Faster! Harder! Higher!—or bark at them during games, "You gotta get lower! You gotta hit harder!"
"Coach, he's not a coach! Tell him to stop!"
"All right, Lyndon, pull it back a little."
He was beginning to feel like a real boy, like he belonged ... when his body went haywire again in eighth grade. A case of chicken pox, which could have proved fatal, and the swine-flu scare kept him homebound for six weeks, then he spit up a piece of tonsil, got swollen lymph nodes and was stunned to learn that, on top of everything else, he had cancer.