A place on the mantel

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The kid was at the top of the arc, sinking three-pointer after three-pointer. But it was the look on his face that sticks with me.

I witnessed a lot in the past 12 months, things I'll never forget. In Beijing, I saw Michael Phelps make Olympic history. I trailed a couple of old-timers named Arnie and Jack at Augusta National and saw a 3-year-old named Big Brown capture two jewels of the Triple Crown before choking on the third.

But the look on this kid's face, I won't soon forget. He was 20 years old, stood just 6 feet 2.

The kid was nailing every shot but seemed frustrated. I asked his coach why. He doesn't like when his shots touch the rim, the coach said.

A few days later, I saw the kid again at the NCAA tournament in Raleigh, N.C. There, the kid - Stephen Curry - scored 40 points against Gonzaga and then 30 against Georgetown in two upsets.

It wasn't Curry's amazing tournament that remains with me, or the precision he displayed at practice. It was a letter I received from a Davidson woman. She told me how Curry visited her son's school, how her boy met his hero on the playground and was eager for an autograph. But he had no pen. So the boy grabbed a rock and asked Curry to touch it. He raced home and placed the rock on the mantel, where it sat during Davidson's tournament run.

The best part of sports isn't winning every game, and it isn't making every shot. It's whom you touch along the way and how you earn your way on to someone's mantel.


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