“It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” That’s the good-natured advice imparted on us when we first start playing sports as children: that good sportsmanship is more important than just winning.
As we get older and more competitive, sometimes we lose sight of that wisdom. But in 2013, two high school basketball players and a coach proved there are more important things in life than scoring points.
Mitchell Marcus, from El Paso, Texas, has always loved basketball. “Mitchell always had a basketball, that was always what he wanted for his birthday,” his mother Amy told CBS News.
Even though Mitchell was born with a developmental disability, nothing was going to keep him from the sport he loved.
So when he got to Coronado High School, he joined the school’s Thunderbirds basketball team as team manager.
Mitchell was on the sidelines for every game, and a favorite amongst his coach and teammates.
“He’s just an amazing person that our basketball team loves being around,” Coach Peter Morales said.
Everyone could see Mitchell’s undeniable passion for the sport—so during the final regular game of the season, Coach Morales decided to do something special for him:
He put him in the game!
Everyone was thrilled to see Mitchell finally get his chance in the game.
“I just started hearing, ‘Mitchell, Mitchell,'” Morales said.
The coach was happy to do the right thing for a teen who’s done so much for the team—even if it meant costing the Thunderbirds a game.
“He wasn’t going to be able to score,” the coach said. “But I was hoping that he was happy that he was just put in the game.”
Mitchell was having a blast out on the court, and his classmates were all cheering him on, even if he was missing his throws.
But then, he got an unexpected assist—from the opposing team!
Jonathon Montanez, a senior for the rival Franklin High, got possession of the ball, and decided to do something incredible: he called out Mitchell’s name and handed him the ball in a giveaway.
“I was raised to treat others like you want to be treated,” Jonathon told CBS. “I just thought Mitchell deserved his chance, deserved his opportunity.”
So Mitchell got opportunity—and left everyone stunned.
The crowd went wild in disbelief. Mitchell finally had his moment of glory, helping his teammates to a 15-point lead.
But it was all thanks to Jonathon. His own team may have lost the game, but he gained a new, lasting friendship with Mitchell.
But that’s not all: in the five years since that fateful game, Jonathon has been honored for his good sportsmanship.
CBS News reports that because of his behavior during the game he received a scholarship to Texas Tech University. He will soon graduate with a degree in physical therapy.
It’s true proof that some things in life are more important than points. Five years later, few people will remember who won that game—but the kindness will stay with everyone forever.