Basketball manager with neurological disease scores in only appearance, insists on dunking

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

The 2012-13 basketball season has already seen a full share of inspirational baskets, heartwarming assists and general good will. Now a game in Massachusetts may have brought on a true first: An inspirational dunk serving as a player’s only career points.

As uncovered by NBC Sports and brought to Prep Rally’s attention by USA Today, the Lawrence (Mass.) Academy basketball team wanted to honor longtime team manager Joey Mullaney in the team’s final home game. Mullaney suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Friedrich’s ataxia, which essentially kept him from competing with the Lawrence squad throughout his high school years. Lawrence coach Kevin Wiercinski offered up the idea of starting Mullaney on senior night to his team and all accepted, including Mullaney himself.

Except Mullaney had a specific condition for his participation: He had to be allowed to dunk. Not take a shot, or even just handle the ball. Mullaney wanted a dunk, and he wasn’t going to accept the token gesture unless he got to hang on the rim.

While Wiercinski laughed off the request at first, he soon learned that his senior team manager was hardly kidding around.

“[Coach Wiercinski] laughed it off,” Mullaney told NBC Sports. “I was like, ‘I’m not lying. I’m dunking it.’ I’ve seen these kind of shots before where kids do layups or threes. I just really wanted to go out with a bang.”

Yet, to go out with a bang, Lawrence would have to get another team to cooperate with the plan. It was no secret that Mullaney wouldn’t be able to dunk under his own power, so Lawrence would have to come up with a plan to help him get to the rim to throw down his only points.

The solution was brokered with Lawrence’s Senior Night opponent -- Boston-based ISL rival Buckingham Browne & Nichols -- and that day’s game referees, with all agreeing to temporarily suspend Dr. James’ Naismith’s adapted rules of basketball to allow Mullaney to receive a piggyback lift up for a dunk.

According to the Lowell Sun, the players who gave Mullaney a helping hand were 6-foot-7 Lawrence center Darrien Myers -- he was the piggyback host, if you will -- and Joey Mullaney’s twin brother, Sean Mullaney. Once near the rim, Joey Mullaney wasted little time to flush home a memorable bucket, eventually lingering on the rim for a bit longer while channeling his inner Dwayne Wade with a rim-edge pull up … while wearing Superman socks.

Perhaps fittingly, the dunk was actually the final act for both Joey and Sean Mullaney. Sean does not suffer from Friedrich’s ataxia and has emerged as a basketball stalwart and senior captain at Lawrence. Yet Sean suffered a badly sprained ankle and has found himself on the bench with an injury in recent weeks.

On Senior Night, he suited up, handed his brother the ball, smiled as he completed a first and only dunk, then left the court alongside him, reveling in a special moment for both the Mullaney family and the larger Lawrence community as a whole.

"It was an incredible act of human kindness on the part of coach Kevin Wiercinski and coach Kevin Sullivan and, accordingly, Lawrence Academy," David Mullaney, the brothers’ father, told the Sun.

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