His name is Mason Kunkel, and he is quickly becoming an overnight internet sensation. After all, it took only hours after his video emerged online for it to land him a spot on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays. While Kunkel’s popularity may be borne out of a rather random deep buzzer beater, it could easily be for representing everything that is great about youth sports.
Sure, Kunkel hit the miraculous mid-courter you see above. Sure, the shot’s trajectory and the magnitude of it being a game-winner is notable, even at the third grade level. Still, what is truly notable about the Dubuque, Iowa player's bucket is the sheer joy that it brought to he and his teammates, just moments after they appeared to be in agony.
As you can see in the video, as first popularized by Bob's Blitz, Kunkel -- wearing number 12 -- was on the verge of despair when his youth basketball squad was tied up by a pair of free throws with just seconds remaining. He threw his arms up in abject frustration and appeared to curse the Gods who delivered him into such a frustrating situation.
Yet there were seconds remaining in the game. Just enough, in fact, for Kunkel to catch an inbounds pass and deliver from very, very deep, his sheer arm strength a minor miracle in itself.
Forget the fact that Kunkel almost surely would have been called for a travel at any higher level (there were some serious shuffles before that shot), the elementary schooler still made the shot, against all odds and expectations.
The make set off the kind of delirium you don’t see in professional sports, even when players win the Super Bowl. Forget a sporting event; one would have thought that Kunkel and his teammates had delivered world peace.
Of course, all they’d won was a youth basketball game between third graders. Yet, for them, the win was one of the greatest moments of their young lives, all while their counterparts in black shirts trudged off the court despondent, all in an adorable way.
That purity, that sheer joy, is representative of all that is truly wonderful with youth sports. The honest commitment to a game and inability to disaggregate a simple game from the totality of one’s life. The desperation with which a player wants to win. The unexpected joy of a deep shot that falls through.
It’s wonderful to watch, and even more wonderful to be a part of. And it’s why youth sports are important, and should remain so throughout all our lives.