Hill Inspires Fans

Tyler Sloan, Sports Editor

There are some moments in sports history that make us take a step back and appreciate why athletes play the games they play. Last Sunday was one of those moments, when 19-year-old Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University took the court in the NCAA Division III women’s basketball season opener.

Last year, Hill was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. This September, her doctor informed her that she had only a few months to live. Since then, her dream has been to play in just one college basketball game. However, given her illness, Hill has been sidelined for most of the preseason, forced to sit on the bench wearing headphones and sunglasses due to severe headaches caused by the tumor.

But in a heartwarming turn of events, the NCAA agreed to move the opening game from Nov. 15 to an earlier date so that Hill could compete before she passes away. To accommodate the thousands of people supporting Hill, Mount St. Joseph upgraded its venue to the Cintas Center at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, which seats 10,250 spectators. On Sunday, the stadium was sold out.

To make things sweeter, Hill did not simply compete against the Hiram College Terriers, but she scored the opening basket of the 2014 season. She would later add two more points that contributed to Mount St. Joseph’s 66–55 win over Hiram. After the game, Hill said to the thousands of fans, “This is the best day I have ever had.”

Hill’s inspirational story and dedication to the game she loves have garnered the attention of the national media and celebrity athletes alike. On Monday, two-time NBA champion LeBron James posted a picture of Hill competing in Sunday’s game on his Instagram account with the caption: “You are simply and truly ‘AMAZING’ Lauren Hill!!! Thank you for inspiring me and I’ll try my best to match you! Congrats on your game. Also be looking out for a package from I to You! You’re Awesome!!!”

Hill recently told CBS in an interview that playing basketball provides her with a source of happiness while she battles her illness.

“I wanted to wear those shoes and wear that jersey and feel like a superhero again because that’s how I feel when I put on that jersey and wear that number,” she said.

Although few athletes will face a situation comparable to Hill’s in their lifetime, the sentiment of her story and passion for her sport rings true for all athletes dedicated to their games. The power of playing a sport is beyond the capabilities of any doctor or any medicine in the world, because when someone is on the court, field or rink, everything else becomes background noise.

When Hill competed in the game against the Terriers over the weekend, she was not thinking about the fact that she would inevitably pass away in a matter of weeks. In the same CBS interview, Hill said that she was most worried about letting her teammates down when she could no longer attend practice. In just one statement, Hill explains the power of team sports when difficult situations arise: “I love [my teammates]. They’re like my family and they keep me going. They’re what keeps me positive.”

This message is the essence of why team sports exist. In times of difficulty and pain, teams possess the sacred ability to make you forget about everything bad, if only just for a few minutes.