As I watched the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, I learned that in addition to playing in this first NBA Finals, Heat veteran Michael Miller is simultaneously dealing with a family crisis.
Miller’s wife, Jennifer, was pregnant with their third child and first girl. After game two of the Eastern Conference Finals, Miller flew home to Miami and went straight to the hospital. Jennifer was induced and twelve hours gave birth to Jaelyn. But something was wrong – ventricular septal defect. For almost two weeks doctor’s ran tests on Jaelyn, while mother Jennifer stayed with her at the hospital, and father Michael, shuttled back and forth between the hospital and his day job – playing for an NBA championship. He slept in chairs in the hospital, stayed up to four in the morning, missed practices, and played games wearing his hospital bracelet.
Finally last week the news was good. Jaelyn went home for the first time. She will still need follow-up appointments and possible surgery. But now she and Jennifer are home. And Michael is two wins away from his first NBA championship after twelve years in the league. The Miller’s two sons, Mason and Maverick (an ironic name since the Heat’s opponent in the NBA Finals is the Dallas Mavericks), have been attending the games with their grandparents.
It’s a great story and makes you want to cheer for Miller, but there’s more. Four years ago, Miller, a native of Mitchell, South Dakota, and his wife donated $1 million to the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At the time Miller said, “Jennifer and I are blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to the Sanford Children’s Hospital during its groundbreaking phase. The gift not only reflects a continuing commitment to my home state of South Dakota, but also acts as a reminder to Jen and me of our good fortune in having two happy and healthy sons. Hopefully in this small way, we can spread our blessings to others in need.” In appreciation of the generous gift, the pediatric intensive care unit was named the Mike and Jennifer Miller Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Fast forward four years and “people in a PICU are helping me deal with the same exact situations that I was helping people with,” said Miller.
If kind acts are rewarded in the end, then watch for Shawn Crawford in the track & field world. At the 2008 Olympics in the 200 meter final, Usain Bolt set a then world record of 19.30 to win the gold. The battle for the remaining medals was very close. Americans Crawford (the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 200), Walter Dix, and Wallace Spearkmon as well as Churandy Martinz of the Dutch Antilles were all close together. Martina crossed the line second in 19.82 seconds, Spearmon was third in 19.95, followed by Crawford in 19.96 and Dix in 19.98. 0.16 seconds separated these four men.
Shortly after the race official told Spearmon he was disqualified for stepping on the inside lane line. Team USA filed a protest and then reviewed the video from the race. USA officials realized that Spearmon had in fact committed the lane violation but they also noticed that Martina had committed the same type of lane violation so they protested Martina’s finish. Meet officials reviewed the video and agreed. Both Spearmon and Martina were disqualified, which moved Crawford up to the silver medal and Dix up to the bronze medal.
Crawford, however, felt funny about receiving the silver medal in this fashion, “Even if he hadn’t stepped on the line, I knew in my heart he’d have finished way ahead of me,” said Crawford. That evening after the medal ceremony, Crawford decided to give the silver medal to Martina. “I didn’t look at it was being something heroic,” said Crawford, “It was just something I felt I wanted to do.”
The week after the Olympics Martina and Crawford were both scheduled to compete at a meet in Zurich. Crawford packaged the silver medal and left it for Martina at the hotel front desk with a note that said: “Churandy, I know this can’t replace the moment, but I want you to have this because I believe it’s rightfully yours! – Shawn Crawford.”
Crawford never intended for this to make the news but when it did he later reflected, “With all the bad news going around in track and field and the idea that athletes are so greedy they’ll do anything to try to win, if this helps restore the idea of chivalry and sportsmanship to the sport, then great.”
Elite athletes who are charitable, chivalrous, and sportsman-like. Keep those words in mind and remember the stories about Michael Miller and Shawn Crawford.