My Basketball Story – Dealing with Can’t

Michael Jordan and I have a similar story. Except the part about six NBA Championships.

It’s hard to grow up in the Michael Jordan era and not love basketball, especially when you share the same hometown. However, Jordan’s basketball domination didn’t start in the spotlight. When he was a sophomore at Laney High School in Wilmington, he was cut from the team.

“You can’t play”

That moment became a the driving force behind one of the greatest champions sports will ever know.

In that way, our paths are similar.

When I was growing up, baseball was my sport and basketball was the hobby. In 8th grade, that started to change. I approached our coach and told him my thoughts.

His response was devastating.

“You can’t play basketball, Matt.  You’re too slow. You might make the team, but you’ll never play in high school. Stick to baseball.”

I was shocked. I had no idea how to respond. I recognized that I wasn’t God’s gift to basketball. But, can’t and never?

My fear led to non-action. I was defeated. I feared realizing the rejection so I didn’t even try.

Paralyzed by fear.

Suspension and Belief

In the 10th grade, our high school baseball team was forced to stop off-season workouts. That suspension is the only reason this story is told.

The time off from baseball caused that Can’t comment linger in my mind.

This time, I changed my approach.

I let my Can’t become Can I?

Why squash the power of belief and hope with Can’t?

I turned the negative into a positive question. It created belief and hope.

Questioning myself encouraged action. Action produced results.

Not only did I make the team, I started every game. Not only did I start, I got moved up to the varsity team. The same slow white kid that would never play in high school was playing varsity basketball two years later.

I didn’t grow six inches or become faster, it was simply my belief in myself and a recognition of my strengths. I was already tall and played the post –  good for rebounds, put backs and fouls. I harnessed those strengths and ended up a co-captain my senior year and started every game.

Here’s the awesome part.

Remember the coach that told me “You’ll never play high school basketball?”

He got a job coaching at my high school my senior year. On senior night, he lined the tunnel with the other coaches as we ran out on the floor. After the game, I reminded him of the story. Not in an arrogant way to rub it in his face, I meant it as a thank you.

Thanks to motivation from that coach and Michael Jordan, I replaced Can’t with Can I?

Coming Full-Circle

Thirteen years later, life with three boys under 3-years old has the power to limit your vocabulary. Words like, “No” “Don’t” and “Stop” rule the conversation.

My boys are exploring, without limitation, and it seems as if impending harm sits, waiting for the moment to strike.  As a father, I toe the line between, “that’s going to hurt” and “I’m not going to let them get hurt.”

I have come to realize that their life is powered by the word Can and Can I?. They seek possibility in everything as they explore their world.  All children remind us to approach life with hope and passion. Children search for that moment when Can I? becomes Can.

They light up in their accomplishment as they broaden their sense of possibility.

This is the process of learning.

The process of growing.

Somewhere along the way, you may have stopped seeking possibility and settled for Can’t.

Do you let this contraction rule your life?

How have you responded?

There are physically impossible feats like flying or breathing under water, that just can’t be done. However, airline flight and SCUBA diving are great examples of pushing the boundary of possibility.

Have you let your boundaries be determined by someone else’s can’t or maybe even your own?

Here are four quick steps to help you uncover the hidden culture of can’t in your own life.

  1. Where are you telling yourself you can’t?
  2. Where are others telling you, you can’t?
  3. What skills and passions do you recognize in your life that you are not pursuing?
  4. Identify and attack those areas with purposeful steps

Living richly has everything to do with pushing boundaries as you seek new possibility.

You will be amazed at what you can do!

Share your stories!  How can I help?


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15 Responses to My Basketball Story – Dealing with Can’t

  1. Glenn August 21, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    No truer words were ever spoken, or in this case, written. Great story Matt, as usual. I will try to practice what you preach with my grandkids, all three now.

    • Matt Ham August 21, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      More blessings for you Glenn! Sent Brandon an email this morning! Congrats!

  2. Jerry Todd August 21, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Good stuff Matt. Very Very True!!!!

    • Matt Ham August 21, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks for reading Jerry AND for sharing! Go Wildcats!

  3. libbybailey09 August 21, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Love the Charlie reference 🙂

  4. Matt Ham August 21, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Had to share this from a former teammate and friend: “Already read it Ham. Great read! Enjoyed our years together and although we never won anything extremely major…we made life long friendships.”

    I replied: “If that’s all we ever won bro, we won something major!”

    That was awesome! Thanks Ace!

    • i riggs August 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      I remember those days! I enjoyed being on the team and playing with u guys. I remember Matt’s dedicated spirit and ace’s 3’s he could hit from anywhere. Those were great times!!!!

      • Matt Ham August 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

        Yes they were Ivey thanks so much for sharing brother!

  5. Bo August 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Matt it was a true pleasure watching you and mark grow up and rooting for you in all the sports you played

    • Matt Ham August 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

      Bo!! Man it is awesome to hear from you and I appreciate the feedback! Let me champion you for a moment – it was so great for you to take such an interest and be involved in our sports back then. I am grateful for that! I hope you are doing well!

  6. chrismorriswrites August 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this story with me on Twitter. What a great read!


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