“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” 

Phil Jackson

Along the winding trail of high school memories, where adolescent angst and triumphs share the road with puberty and algebra, there lies a story. A story so rich in the spirit of collaboration, it could make a grown man weep into his reunion punch.

This is the tale of The Mighty Fleas, a band of basketball underdogs who, through the sheer force of teamwork, turned the impossible into the unforgettable.

Our story unfolds in the hallowed halls of St. Joseph Academy—my old high school—where the annual 3-on-3 basketball league was the stage for legends to be born and, more often than not, for egos to be playfully bruised.

My friends Jacob, Daniel (affectionately known as “D.D.”), and I, were the self-appointed jesters of this court, priding ourselves not on trophies, but on the creativity of our team names. “I Don’t Know Who” was a personal favorite, causing much confusion and a few existential crises among the announcers.

But let’s not dwell on our brilliant team naming skills. Instead, let’s revisit our sophomore year, where we, The Mighty Fleas, were about to face our Goliath: “The Twin Towers”.

These weren’t just any high school basketball players—they were the crème de la crème of the varsity team, towering over us both in height and skill. Their reputation was as formidable as their gameplay, known for their less-than-sportsmanlike conduct and for turning the court into their personal stage of domination.

As fate would have it, our showdown with The Towers was set, but with a twist straight out of a Shakespearean comedy. D.D., our not-so-secret weapon, was ensnared in an afterschool activity, leaving Jacob and I to contemplate our impending doom.

With the heart of a flea but the courage of a lion, we decided to face our fate head-on, even as the idea of forfeit dangled like a tempting carrot before us.

The game began with the odds stacked against us—two fleas against three towers. The math wasn’t in our favor, but then again, when has math ever been the harbinger of miracles?

We started strong, fueled by a mix of adrenaline and the sheer audacity of hope. The crowd, initially there for the spectacle of our defeat, began to sense something extraordinary unfolding.

Point by point, we chipped away at the Towers’ arrogance. Our strategy was simple: avoid being swatted like flies and shoot from afar. The Towers, basking in their overconfidence, soon found themselves on the back foot as the scoreline read like a fairytale: 12-0 in favor of the fleas.

But as in any good story, the tide began to turn. The Towers, awakening from their slumber of arrogance, started to claw back. The score tightened, the crowd swelled, and the air crackled with the electricity of a David vs. Goliath showdown. The game was no longer just a game—it was a battle of wills, a testament to the underdog spirit.

And then, the moment of truth.

The score tied at 19-19, the court a cauldron of cheers and gasps. Jacob, in a moment of audacious bravery (or perhaps sheer madness), drove towards the basket, drawing the attention of all three Towers. It was then, in that split second of distraction, that he passed the ball to me.

With the hopes of our little team resting on my shoulders, I took the shot.

Swish.

The crowd erupted, the court became a sea of jubilant faces, and Jacob and I, The Mighty Fleas, basked in the glory of our improbable victory. We hadn’t just won a game—we had crafted a memory that would outlive the fleeting days of high school.

In the aftermath, as we basked in our unexpected triumph, Mr. Pool, our English teacher and the game’s referee, shared a sentiment that elevated our victory to the stuff of legends. In a later class, with a twinkle in his eye that could rival the gleam of any championship trophy, he declared that our victory over The Twin Towers was “the single greatest sporting event” he had ever witnessed. Coming from Mr. Pool, a man who had seen his fair share of high school dramas unfold on and off the court, this was no small compliment (but most certainly a moment of dramatic hyperbole).

This story, dear reader, is more than just a recount of an underdog victory. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, the strength found in unity, and the magic that happens when individuals come together for a common goal.

Jacob and I were more than just teammates—we were a microcosm of potential, a living example of the adage that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

So, as you navigate the basketball courts of your life, remember The Mighty Fleas. Remember that sometimes, 1+1 does indeed equal 11, and that the magic of collaboration can turn even the smallest of fleas into giants.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.