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Last night was a special occasion as my son Grayson selected a book for me to read at bedtime. As I waited for Grayson to wrap up his bedtime routine, I had a chance to look the book over. He was thrilled to inform me that he had chosen it specifically for me. Despite nursing basketball-related injuries to my knee and wrist for the past two weeks, I eagerly picked up the book, Game Changer- John McClendon and The Secret Game, written by John Coy and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.
The cover featured a Black player in an Eagles jersey making a layup while two white players in blue jerseys, one from Duke, stood in the background. As a big Duke fan, I was pleased to see this detail, especially since my son is named after Grayson Allen.
Being a basketball lover, a basketball player, and a basketball coach, I was aware of the all-Black starting five of the 1966 NCAA National Championship Team- Texas Western and their historic victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.
However, I was not aware of the significance of Coach John McClendon and the Eagles of North Carolina College for Negroes, who played against the Duke University Medical School during a time of segregation in North Carolina on March 12, 1944.
Reading this book to my son was a remarkable experience. Grayson had chosen the book because he knew I was interested in basketball, and he had not noticed the Duke players on the cover. I explained the book to him, emphasizing the importance of Black and White people not playing against each other and eventually now with each other. My son was taken aback by the notion that White players would refuse to play with Black players.
Grayson’s innocence is pure and something I never want to change. He wakes up every morning happy and ready to tackle the day with his positive zeal and love for everyone!
In the end, Coach McClendon said it best, “just God’s children horsing around with a basketball.”