Like most professional sports, the National Basketball Association provides its best form of entertainment through statistical feats that astound us with their improbability or physical accomplishments that defy gravity and other mortal constraints. We’ve seen players score 100 points, average a triple-double for a season, win eight straight championships, dunk from the foul line, and destroy backboards as though they were made of paper.
Every once in a while, however, a hero arises to make us question all forms of greatness that have come before him – a hero whose name will be remembered not because of what he achieved but because of the followers he inspired. Two of these such heroes – whose accomplishments are so mythical that they supersede all reason – have their feats written in stone, a testament to their immortal legacies.
I am speaking, of course, of Reggie Evans and Harvey Catchings.
Where other NBA stars might seek to carve out their names among the All-Time leading scorers and champions, Evans and Catchings chose instead to inspire others by way of their generosity and humility. We recognize these legends today based on two records they hold which we may never see broken or challenged.
Reggie Evans is the NBA’s All-Time leader in 1-point games submitted, and Harvey Catchings holds a similar distinction as the All-Time leader in 2-point games submitted.
Clearly these two players possessed a unique sense of teamwork and charity with the way that they chose to diminish their own talent in order to let their teammates shine and bask in the glory of success. True greatness like this, however, can never be forgotten. Evans and Catchings are the pillars to which we should all strive to emulate in our everyday lives. Nothing can be accomplished alone, and it takes every individual effort to succeed as a team, group, or family.
Unselfishness is a virtue not often seen in today’s world, and the end of the twentieth century brought with it a skewed sense of individual success. People like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and Paris Hilton have proven that there are still cynical, miserly tycoons among us who would prefer to destroy the world with their unilateral methods of leadership. I suppose, however, that we need terrible examples like them to reinforce the value of contributing little and supporting others.
Take, for example, the actual meaning of Evans’ record 58 1-point games. In order to record these games, Reggie had to sacrifice his body at the opportune moment during an NBA game in order to reach the foul line. In every single one of these 58 games, he absorbed a foul – sometime flagrant – in order to inspire his teammates. By only making one out of two foul shots, he further proved to his teammates that perfection was impossible and that winning was not the ultimate goal – rather, that growth and unity should be our focus. A modern-day Samson, Reggie Evans is a testament to the occasional need to sacrifice oneself for the greater good.
In a similar way, Harvey Catchings inspired greatness. Although his record 179 games of scoring only two points is somewhat blemished by a record of 61 wins and 118 losses, his lasting tribute to fans is the fact that 126 of these 179 two-point games occurred at home. Catchings loved Bucks, Nets, 76ers, and Clippers fans too much to allow them to leave the arena without having witnessed something miraculous.
Furthermore, Catchings took his game to the next level by fouling out twice in those 179 games. Twice, he put his body on the line and did everything within his power to prevent his opponent from scoring, paying the ultimate price with disqualifications. But we know now, having witnessed his great career in its entirety, that after committing that fateful sixth foul that Harvey left the floor to thunderous applause, as fans throughout the arena hollered their approval and chanted his name like some prayer to the basketball gods. Their great savior had fouled out to save the team’s other big men from a worse fate.
In some ways, it saddens me to think of Evans and Catchings. I’m sure that somewhere around the country you could find the two of them reminiscing together about the magical days of contributing minimally to their teams while maintaining an undying sense of pride and love for the game. And behind his desk in Miami, Pat Riley is probably still cursing himself for never trying to trade for one of these two legends, for realizing their true value long after they departed for greener pastures. After all, the Heat could certainly use more humility and unselfishness as their deplorable franchise seeks to recover from the irreparable damage of fielding a lineup of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh for four straight years.
My greatest hope is that someday we as fans will be graced with the presence of a player who takes it upon himself to contribute even less to a team on a regular basis. Someday, maybe, the NBA may feature a player whose unselfishness allows him to refrain from scoring for an entire season while still providing superior defense and other unquantifiable contributions.
Until then, we can only dream.