Kids Sports News Network

The Unreal Story Turned Movie

Game Stands 1

It was December of 2001. I was a month into my first season as a varsity basketball player in my senior year at Dwight D. Eisenhower High School.  As a standout program in Houston, we were selected to participate in the Nike National Invitational Basketball Tournament. This particular tournament was the biggest high school tournament in the nation and it caught fire quickly. Coaches from all around flocked to Houston to recruit and scout this huge event that featured the top schools from Texas and all across the country. The usuals like Westchester (CA), Oak Hill (VA), and Rice (NY) were all there, including a team named De La Salle.

I saw and competed against countless prep stars-turned NBA pros participate like Kendrick Perkins, Hasaan Adams, Ndudi Ebi, Cartier Martin and this guy named Carmelo Anthony—you may have heard of him.

Carmelo playing in the 2001
Nike National Tournament
at Aldine ISD M.O.
Campbell Center Houston, TX

Among all of the hoopla and fanfare I remember sitting down watching Carmelo lead Oak Hill to a big win and talking with a player De La Salle about how awesome Carmelo would be in the future. This kid, Carmelo, was 18 like myself, but he had an unreal NBA-ready mid range game and tremendous athleticism.  Simply stated he was the best high school player I had ever seen live. As the conversation continued I could not help but notice how much he and his teammates stood out among the other selected schools. I recall their team looking pretty nerdy and not having many black players. Considering that roughly 90% of the players in that 16-team tournament were in fact black, to say they stood out would be a gross understatement of the obvious.

But, in sports none of that matters.  The guy and me were having a great time discussing hoops. I remember endlessly fighting back the urge to flat out ask the guy “who the hell are you guys?” so as not to sound like a complete jerk. Fortunately, I was able to satisfy my curiosity with a few less abrasive and probing questions, and then he uttered something that I’ll never forget to this day.

As if it were no big deal, he admitted, “we’re a good team, but nothing like our football team, they haven’t lost a game in like 10 years.” His statement rolled off his tongue like he had just mentioned something as insignificant as saying he dropped his toothbrush in the sink this morning and it was gross or something. I remember stopping him mid sentence with a resounding “wait… WHAT?! 10 years?” He laughed again and responded, “yea dude it’s like a record or something, they’re pretty badass.”

Now I’m no stranger to seeing good high school football.  In fact my school Eisenhower was known for our stellar football teams. We as a school were a common fixture in the Texas 5A state rankings and local news team of the week sections. It was a bad year if we did not at least reach the state finals or a game away from it. But, this was different. Ten years of not losing a game? I could not even fathom any aspect of such a claim. Out of respect, I didn’t deny the story or ask any further questions, but I left the conversation in utter disbelief. No way could he have been right, right? Could De La Salle’s football team be THAT good?

Slain linebacker, Terrance Kelly

Thirteen years later… Hollywood caught wind of the amazing 151-game winning streak of De LaSalle High School from the 1990’s to early 2000’s and the critically acclaimed film “When the Game Stands Tall” was born.  This movie is a powerful depiction of the amazing accomplishments of a true American sports dynasty. Coach Bob Ladouceur had an unreal tenure as coach and endured on and off-field perils.  When they finally lost, breaking a streak that the entire sports world had begun to pay attention to, they bounced back that same season to reclaim the state title in 2004. Although “When the Game Stands Tall” is intended to inspire, it also highlights the harsh reality of playing in the Bay Area in California with stories of players like Terrance Kelly, a standout linebacker, that was untimely killed the day before he was to leave for Eugene as a scholarship athlete for the University of Oregon. Senseless violence is a reality that Richmond, California has in abundance.

This movie is raw, real and genuine, but if you’re looking for a biography, this isn’t what you’ll get. Like most Hollywood scripts, some details and characters are fabricated to aide the plot, yet the main details are all factual.  “When the Game Stands Tall” is a must see for anyone who can appreciate hard work, sacrifice and the spirit of competition. With the personal interaction I had with that basketball player during this amazing streak it is a bit of a nostalgic delight to see the story that I once thought of as fiction to materialize as a Hollywood blockbuster.

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Author: Clifford Franks

Cliff formerly played for Stephen F. Austin State University & Prairie View A&M University.  He holds a BA in Criminal Justice & Master’s of Education in Curriculum & Instruction/Media Technology. In addition to his collegiate experience, Cliff played professional basketball in Germany, Switzerland and Portugal (FIBA) and coached at the Division 1 level.

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