Ben 10 is an animated children’s TV series whose main character, Ben Tennyson, is a young boy who uses his “Omnitrix” wristband to transform himself into powerful alien-like characters to fight against evil on earth or in space.
That’s on TV, but in real life, “Ben 10” is basketball player named Benjamin Swapp. He is an 11 year old 6th grader on the Castillero Middle School Cobras (San Jose, CA) 6th/7th grade boys basketball team. Ben, who wears number 10, loves the show but doesn’t need an Omnitrix, he relies on the strength of his teammates and Coach, Christian Murtha, to battle opposition on the court.
Murtha’s team won the San Jose Unified School District Middle School championship regular season and tournament but those victories paled in comparison to their achievement in the last regular season contest against Allen at Steinbeck School. Coach Murtha and four of his more experienced players, Ryan Wahl, Mason Ryan, Lucas Mirrizzi, & Quinn Denker, all 7th graders, set out on a plan, to get Ben a basket!
Sure, several kids play entire seasons without scoring a point, hitting a home run, or catching a touchdown pass, and Ben was in that category. However, it wasn’t that Ben hadn’t scored yet that makes this special, what makes Ben Swapp amazing is that he was even on the team. That he was even capable of playing in a game which involved running up and down a basketball court.
You see, Ben was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, officially diagnosed at the age of 2 and then at age 5, he was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you’d like to know more about autism you can read this additional article. Although he is forced to use a power scooter to get around school, by all statistical accounts, this kid should be in a wheelchair almost full time by now, but “Ben 10” continues to defy the odds.
Ben spends each morning working with machines that help clear up his lungs and airways because the DMD is weakening his heart and lungs. His autism typically makes him uncomfortable in large crowds but that all changes when he’s in a gym with his basketball team. He insists that his parents get him to practice on time and missing practice is completely out of the question. His mom, Shelley, said he talks about his teammates at home and can’t wait to see them the next morning. He cares about his teammates & coaches and they care about him.
So with a plan in place, the four 7th graders and Ben took the floor to begin the 4th quarter against Allen. Rather than making Ben run up and down the court, as he usually does, they decided to have him stay on the offensive end near the basket so that he could get a shot up quickly. Each kid had a role, all four had to play swarming defense and get the ball back. Wahl and Ryan were to rebound on both ends of the floor and get the ball to Mirrizzi and Denker who would dribble the ball quickly up floor and hand-off to Ben for a shot. Once on offense, Wahl and Ryan crashed the boards while Mirrizzi and Denker set screens and fed Ben the ball.
Tom Swapp, Ben’s Dad, said, “those boys played harder during that stretch than they have at any other point in the game, all because they wanted Ben to score!”
Several minutes had passed and although the plan was working, Ben had attempted several shots and a even a few free throws and had yet to score until about 1:30 to go in the game when it happened…
Can’t you picture Fox TV’s Gus Johnson making the call?
“Swapp shooting the second of two free throws”
“He shoots…it’s off the front rim”
“Mirrizzi rebounds the miss, dribbles it out, skips it across to Denker who seals his man and hands the ball to Swapp on the left block, he shoots…GOOD! It’s good! Ben 10 scores!“
“Oh my goodness…What a game!“
The crowd goes wild, even the students from Allen are cheering, Coach Murtha and the rest of the Cobras jump off the bench and Ben stands frozen, staring at his teammates with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen across his face. He will never forget this moment, nor will they.
He loves his team and they love him.
As Shelley Swapp, Ben’s Mom, said after the game, “If only every kid could have an entire team of outstanding young men to fight for them. Kindness is truly the Essence of Greatness!”