ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s a day he’ll never forget.
After Jason McElwain inspired the world by scoring 20 points for Greece Athena in his one and only varsity basketball game, he found himself at the ESPYs. It’s ESPN’s annual awards show for sports and athletic achievement of all sorts.
McElwain was nominated for the “Best Moment” of the year. He joked Monday that he was the only who didn’t know he was going to win.
One of the nominees J-Mac “defeated” for the ESPY was Kobe Bryant.
That was the year Bryant scored his incredible career high 81 points. According to J-Mac, Bryant didn’t want to win the award. He wanted J-Mac to win. (or 13 year old Dakoda Dowd, who birdied her first ever LPGA hole while her mother, who was battling cancer, watched)
J-Mac spoke met Bryant briefly before the award ceremony. They talked at length afterward.
“After the show, we met for a half hour and it was like a casual great conversation,” McElwain said. “He was genuine, passionate, compassionate. He was just a great guy.”
Bryant was the number one player for J-Mac. He will defend to the death today that Bryant is better the LeBron James. No surprise that McElwain said he was “starstruck” to meet Bryant in person. He called it a blessing and an honor to stand with Bryant.
What Bryant said to McElwain had to be off the charts incredible.
“He goes, ‘I heard about your 20 point game. I just teared up. I just couldn’t believe somebody has overcome an obstacle… that grew the game of basketball further’,” McElwain said. “I appreciated that and I’ve appreciated what he did for the game of basketball.”
J-Mac was at a loss for words when he heard about the tragedy Sunday (and for J-Mac, that’s no small feat). Bryant’s competitiveness and work ethic are something McElwain carries around in everyday life at work and as a coach in the Greece Arcadia girls program.
J-Mac and Kobe occasionally exchanged emails in the years between the ESPYs and Kobe’s passing. Bryant even DM’d J-Mac a congrats on the 10th anniversary of his famous game in Greece.
It was a game that made McElwain the author of the best moment in sports for 2006 even if he might argue Kobe taking the time with him was a better moment yet.
“Now that I think about his passing, I wish I could give it back to him.”