Team manager moments and their videos have been going viral for years now. Some are a little forced, others authentic but every one appears well-intentioned.
All seem to have a special place in each community's heart.
A good judge for each of these moments is simply the sound — the very pitch of the cheers — and the general crazed reactions from the fans, players and coaches. The louder the cheer, the more adored the manager.
The gymnasium at longtime Northern California power Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)
has never been louder or the scene more raucous, longtime officials say, than Friday night when fourth-year manager Lucas Cortez
made a 3-pointer from the right wing in the final minute of the team's 99-64 win over Berkeley
Bishop O'Dowd is the defending state girls champion and its boys team is
No. 1 in Northern California
and features one of the nation's top juniors in Ivan Rabb
Basketball is king at O'Dowd. And it has been for three decades, back when head coach Lou Richie was a star point guard.
"Never have I seen what I saw Friday," Richie said. "The reaction was indescribable. It brought tears to your eyes. It was beautiful. It was incredible. It was all so infectious. Just like Lucas."
Cortez wasn't supposed to live much past his third birthday, according to Richie, due to hypoplastic left heart syndrome, that has required dozens of surgeries. Basically, the left side of his heart is underdeveloped.
"He's a living miracle, he really is," Richie said.
The condition also stunted his growth, but certainly not his brain. The 5-foot senior has a 3.6 grade point average and is hoping to land a team manager job at a Division I school.
"In a few years, we're all going to be coming to him for jobs," Richie said. "He's just incredible kid, the type you want dating your daughter. He's probably our best coach on the sideline too. Basically he's the MVP of our program."
As other manager stories have gone — inspired first by the touching story of Jason McElwain
almost eight years to the day — Richie wanted to repay Cortez for his years of service by getting him into the game.
Richie ran it past coaching friend Mark DeLuca at Berkeley, though the possibility seemed doubtful because A. Berkeley entered the game 20-2 and played the Dragons close the first game and B. Cortez was getting cold feet.
"I was thankful they were thinking of me, but I just didn't think it would be the right situation," Cortez said. "It was such an important game. But I was open to it if my teammates wanted me in there."
Said Richie: "Everything had to align. It was just all meant to be."
Did we mention it was Valentine's Day? Heart condition? Get it?
With O'Dowd up by 30 points and two minutes to play, Cortez entered to a loud ovation. He got a couple shots off and then sank the third, rocking the small band-boxish old-school gym.
"I think I could just feel the support from my team and coaches," Cortez said. "I'm just thankful it went in."
When asked about the volume of the gymnasium and general reaction, Cortez sounded very much like a coach or consciencious teammate: "Honestly I was just focusing on the game. I wanted us to finish strong."
That genuine "team first" spirit is why the Dragons lifted Cortez on his shoulders after the game and why the student body celebrated so. Many others, according to Richie, were moved to tears.
Lost in the celebration was that O'Dowd clinched the league title.
"The whole thing was spontaneous and other than letting him shoot, unscripted," Richie said.
Richie said if not for the goodness of DeLuca and the Yellowjackets, the moment would have never occurred. Afterward, Richie entered Berkeley's locker room and thanked them for seeing a bigger picture.
"I told them I'm a big competitor and I always want to win," Richie said. "But I told them what they did for a deserving kid is bigger than any result. … Coach DeLuca and Berkeley is class all the way."
Cortez, the only child of Manuel, who videotapes each game for the team, and Mirtha, thanked DeLuca and the Yellowjackets after the game as well.
He'll go back to black sacks, black and gold sweater vest and dress shoes for the rest of the season. And he'll sprint to get water bottles to players, coaches, referees and media types as well.
He said he still makes regular check-ups with cardiologists for his condition and occasionally suffer a flair-up.
That's part of the reason , he said, why Friday was special for him. He caught himself and noted that every day being a basketball team manager for the Dragons was important.
"You never know how many opportunities you have doing anything," he said. "Whatever I'm presented with every day I want to make the most of it."