For one night, thanks to a record-setting performance by sophomore guard Jack Taylor, the entire basketball universe was talking about what happened in a 1,200 seat gymnasium at a small college in central Iowa. Taylor had just exploded for 138 points, the most ever scored by an American on the high school, college or professional level, and following Grinnell College’s 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist College, his name was on the lips of the game’s superstars.
Future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was asked for his thoughts about Taylor’s point total. Oklahoma City Thunder All Star Kevin Durant and several other NBA players registered their comments about Taylor on Twitter.
He was even knighted by the king. According to an Associated Press report, Miami’s LeBron James, the 3-time NBA MVP dubbed King James by Nike advertising gurus, said he would love to be able to go back and see two specific performances. The first was Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.
“And this kid,” James was quoted as saying in the AP story. “I want to see him, too. Sir Jack.”
The 138 points easily surpassed the former college basketball scoring record, set nearly six decades ago by Rio Grande College’s Clarence “Bevo” Francis, who scored 113 points against Hillside College in 1954.
Taylor had the kind of game that the most audacious of young minds wouldn’t even dream about. Seriously, who scores 138 points in a single game? You shouldn’t even be able to do that on a Nerf hoop.
Legends are made with games like that.
Names are made famous.
People now know the name of the 5-foot-10 sophomore guard with the baby face and the sweet stroke from 3-point range. They’ve seen video of the kid knocking down shots like he was trying to win tickets on the Pop-A-Shot at the local Chuck E. Cheese.
No question about it, when something like this happens – something so big that nobody would have even imagined it could happen – names are made famous. Taylor, a Christian who is also a member of Grinnell’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle, said that his desire is that a name other than his own would be made famous by that game.
“The Lord has given me the strength and wisdom to stay humble,” Taylor said. “If I had scored 138 points before God saved me, it would have been a disaster. I would have turned myself into a ‘god’ that people could idolize. Instead, God has made me a new creation who cares more about making Jesus’ name famous rather than my own.”
Ted Schultz, Grinnell’s sports information director and the man who sorted through all the media requests with Taylor for weeks after the Faith Baptist game, said Taylor is one of the few athletes who could have handled the situation as well as he did.
“I know it’s a cliche, but this record and the ensuing attention couldn’t have happened to a better person,” Schultz said. “I think had this happened to 95 percent of athletes out there, he or she would have gotten a huge head initially, and then been crushed by the negative criticism that followed. But Jack is so even-keeled that he never let the highs get too high nor the lows get too low.”
As the well-known story goes, Taylor, who transferred to Grinnell from Division II Wisconsin-Lacrosse, entered the game in a bit of a slump, and his coaches and teammates decided it was time to get his offensive game back on track. The idea was to get Taylor as many shots as possible in Grinnell’s trap-happy, high-octane game plan.
Mission accomplished. Before the final buzzer sounded, Taylor had taken 108 shots, including 71 from beyond the arc, and his team walked off the floor with its game plan fulfilled and a victory in its pocket.
Soon, media types from across the country were chiming in, many celebrating the feat, and others calling Taylor anything but a team player and suggesting that his teammates should be upset with the Wisconsin resident’s shot total. Taylor’s teammates, though, have done nothing but heap praise on Taylor, which he deflects back on them before making a comparison.
“My teammates were the reason why I was able to break the scoring record,” Taylor said. “Their unselfishness serves as an example of living as a follower of Jesus Christ, because they realize that it isn’t always about them.
“As a Christian, this is often very difficult to understand. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about how many people know your name, it isn’t about your own personal righteousness. It’s about Jesus’ righteousness. It’s all about Jesus.”
Taylor proved to be an example of his own words about unselfishness in Grinnell’s next contest, dishing out five assists. Through nine games, he ranks second on the 7-2 Pioneers in that category.
Prior to the game against Faith Baptist, Taylor took part in a devotional in which the scripture in Matthew 25:14-30 was discussed. Many know that passage as “The Parable of the Talents,” an example of serving in a way that produces and multiplies results.
“I learned that using one’s God-given abilities wisely and productively is an important aspect of discipleship, and will be rewarded with additional opportunities to serve God faithfully and fruitfully,” Taylor said. “I then prayed, asking God that he would give me the strength to use my abilities wisely and for His glory.
“He definitely multiplied my talents that night. His fingerprints were all over that game.”