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Kevin Grow's Big Night

by Max Rappaport
As he stood in the entrance tunnel, wearing a number-33 Sixers jersey with his name emblazoned upon the back, Bensalem High School senior Kevin Grow could not contain his excitement. Kevin’s journey had begun one week earlier, during “Senior Night” at his school. 

Born with Down syndrome, Grow has served as the manager of the Bensalem boy’s basketball team for four seasons, but two Fridays ago, he saw his first game action with the Fighting Owls. Bensalem head coach John Mullin called Kevin’s number late in a game against Abington, and he scored three points. 

The next night, Coach Mullin once against brought Grow off the bench late in the game. The home crowd, anticipating the curtain call by the senior, cheered him on as his team advanced the ball up the floor with just under two minutes left to play. 

On that first possession, Kevin found the ball in his hands with nobody on him a foot beyond the three-point line. He confidently stepped into a shot, knocking it down to the delight of his family, friends, and classmates. A couple possessions later, he found himself open again at the top of the arc. Once again, Grow rose and released a high-arcing shot, and once again, it found twine. The crowd went nuts. The very next time down the floor, he dribbled into a 20-foot shot from the left wing. And you guessed it… it went in! After a made bucket by Neshaminy, Grow found the ball in his hands with under 10 seconds left in the game. As he began to dribble up the court, the crowd began to buzz. When the 18-year-old pulled up again from downtown, the gym fell silent, and when the ball fell through the hoop, it exploded. His teammates stormed the court, crowding around him and embracing him.

The whole thing was caught on film, and within hours, it’d gone viral.

The video even found its way to the desk of Sixers President and General Manager Sam Hinkie, who saw potential in the young point guard, signing him to a two-day contract.

“What do you say?” said Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “You just walk away and have a little bit more appreciation for a bunch of things. It’s a grounding effect when you see something like that.” 

Kevin arrived at the team’s training facility this Monday to sign his contract and go through his first practice with the team. He received a practice jersey, ate a pre-practice meal with his new teammates, and then took to the court to go through drills with the team’s coaching staff. 

"By far, Kevin's favorite team is the Sixers, and he was so excited just to be able to come down here and see practice," said his sister Laura. "But to be a part of the team, and when we got downstairs to see all the media there, it was even more of a surprise. This whole thing's just taken a mind of its own, and it's just such a neat experience."

Tuesday night, Grow made his Sixers debut, getting his own spot in the team’s locker room at Wells Fargo Center, receiving a customized uniform complete with warmup gear and sneakers, and being introduced in-arena along with the team’s starting five. 

The touching moment was picked up by national media outlets such as ESPN and CNN, and was shared by tens of thousands via social media.