The Two Greatest MISSED Free Throws, Supports Grieving Opponent

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IFebruary 18, 2009

When someone talks about free throws, many things come to mind.  The hours and hours some of us have spent at that line or you might think about images of college fans trying to make a player miss.

Then when the phrase missed free throw is mentioned, ARGH!  We picture times of missing big time free throws of our own or even the missed free throws that might have costed Memphis a National Championship last year (pictured above).

However in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last Saturday (Feburary 7th), two missed free throws became a gesture of sportsmanship and should be remembered for one of the brighter spots in sports.

The game pitted Milwaukee Madison High and DeKalb (Ill.) High.  Earlier that day, Johntell Franklin a senior for Madison had lost his mother to cancer.  He let his coach know that he was not going to participate in the game that evening.

However, later that evening Franklin changed his mind and arrived at the game during the second quarter, wanting to play.

His coach, Aaron Womack Jr., who had already anticipated that he was not going to be at the game, did not put Franklin's name down on the official scorebook.

So for him to be allowed to enter the game, it would cost his team a technical foul charged to the bench and DeKalb would get two free throws.

Understanding the situation, DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman told the officials that they did not want the rule enforced, but the referees hands were tied and had to enforce the rule.

After gathering his players together, senior point guard Darius McNeal told his coach that he would take the shots with the understanding from the entire team that he would miss both shots on purpose. 

And McNeal did exactly that, missing both free throws on purpose.  He later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I did it for the guy who lost his mom, it was the right thing to do."

DeKalb High had driven two hours to Madison for the game and then had to wait another two hours for the start, because the Coach Womack had been with Franklin at the hospital. There was even a time when Coach Rohlman suggested that they simply cancel the game.

But the two teams played, Madison eventually won the game, and afterwards the two teams sat down together and shared a pizza dinner.

Last month I wrote an article about a Dallas area basketball team that defeated their opponents unhonorably 100-0.  The article and the story is about unsportsmanlike play and what is wrong in sports.  This story is a complete 180 degree change and could not be summoned up any better than in the letter written by Madison's coach Womack, "As a principal, school, school district staff, and community 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."


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