I haven’t blogged in a while and one there’s no excuse because I love expressing my free thoughts and letting them leak from the pen that is my macbook pro keyboard.
Or after reading this blog post. Whichever comes first.
I’m not much of a crier but even I began to tear up after watching it. Just hearing Josh’s voice makes me want to give my own life to get his back. You don’t have to have to even have known Josh Level, his family, his incredible older brother Joseph Level, III or even remotely be interested in basketball for Josh’s story to touch your heart. Or better yet your life.
Unfortunately I never had the privilege of meeting Josh Level but his brother Joseph, one of my best friends since my junior year of high school, literally was his biggest fan…for obvious reasons.
The Bible tells us, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Having a twin brother and an older brother whom I looked up to greatly, I take this verse very seriously. My father has always instilled in me to unconditionally love my brothers because they are, as he often put it growing up, “all I have in this world”. There’s nothing like family. There’s nothing like one’s mother. But there’s some inherent intense love that males, I believe, also have for their brothers if they’re fortunate to have them. God blessed me with not only one but two.
Joseph, one of the most honorable young men I’ve had the opportunity to meet during my short time here at UNC, has ironically shown me how to better love my two brothers through my watching him interact with his brothers, namely Josh.
As I mentioned earlier, Joseph was Josh’s biggest fan. He was also Josh’s biggest critic. I sometimes would watch their interaction from a distant wondering why Joseph was so hard on Josh, treating him almost like his son in a way. But it’s because Joseph cared that much about his brother’s success. Joseph had dreams of playing Division-1 sports himself in college. Despite offers to play football at various schools, Joseph chose to choose the renowned institution that is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Joseph didn’t stop there either. As recent as last month, Joseph was also offered admission into the Kenan-Flagler Business School, one of the nation’s top 10 undergraduate programs. There’s no one on this planet that was more happy for Joseph than I was the day he got his congratulatory email. But it’s because I know how close Joseph was to not even applying to Kenan-Flagler for fear that he wouldn’t be accepted. Joseph can almost be his worst enemy. If you meet Joseph once you feel like you’ve known him your entire life. Literally. He’s that personable, charismatic and, for lack of a better word, amazing of a person. As all of my best friends at school can cosign this statement: Joseph never lacks confidence. But he randomly doubts himself, for whatever reason, when it comes to certain things. I in no way take any credit for Joseph getting into Kenan-Flagler but I did encourage him to reconsider applying. I’ll never forget almost tearing up at orientation a couple weeks ago after looking to my left and seeing my best friend of three years sitting polished to the nine in a well-fitting suit, skinny patterned tie and a crisp white shirt. I remember thinking:
Wow. Joseph really did it. Like he really did this. He put his mind to something and achieved his dream of getting into UNC’s undergraduate business school.
And then I began to think internally about Joseph’s family. At the time of orientation I had only met Joseph’s father and uncle. But I of course, in natural Joseph fashion, knew ALL about the rest of his family. Family is a really important thing to Joseph and his love for Josh was no exception.
But back to what I was saying. Joseph cared so much about his younger brother Josh that he almost treated him like a son. Last semester, I’ll never forget it either, Josh randomly calling Joseph in the middle of us playing NBA 2K13 in Joseph’s apartment. Without hesitation, Joseph paused the game and put his brother on speakerphone. All of my boys and I, knowing how much family means to Joseph, stopped what we were doing and turned our attention to the phone. Josh proceeds to tell Joseph about how well he played in his basketball game that night, how many points he scored, how many rebounds he grabbed, etc. I’ve been playing basketball since I was six years old so I understand the game very well but I’ll never ever forget what Joseph asked his brother after Josh finished giving his stat line:
“How many turnovers did you have, Josh? Did you make all your free-throws? Did your team actually win the game, because that’s more important than your stats.”
I’ve obviously heard this type of back and forth before, but for some reason it was different when it came from Joseph’s mouth. He asked all the questions above with such conviction and sincerity in his voice it almost brought chills to my body. Looking back I probably thought to myself, come on, Joe it’s really not that serious. Josh is good enough to play D-1 basketball somewhere right now and he’s only a junior in high school. Give this kid a break. He just wanted to call you and say hello.
But that wouldn’t be Joseph to let his brother settle and feel complacent…even if it was for only a second.
I was telling a good friend of mine just yesterday that we don’t want tragedy to wake us up but sometimes God has alternative plans contrary to our own. He’s not always there when we want Him, but He’s always there when we need Him. It’s crazy to think how wonderfully and miraculously the Lord works. Everything truly happens for a reason and I know the Level family, as sad of a time as this obviously is for all of them, can rest easy at night knowing for certain that Josh is in Heaven at this exact moment smiling down on all of us. If Josh is anything like the rest of his family members whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting to date, I know he would want all of us to use his story to inspire others. In the words of Joseph, Josh would want us to “aspire to inspire”.
I don’t know what your religious affiliation/belief system is and it really doesn’t matter to be honest. I think religion is a very personal, individualized decision that one must make with careful thought. But whether you believe in the supernatural or the afterlife, there’s an inexplicable joy that exists in the Level household. You can only fully understand what I’m saying if you’ve ever traveled to Greensboro and visited their home. The love and peace these people have is truly, truly mind blowing.
With all that being said, I would encourage all who are reading this post to take your life more seriously in 2013 than you have in previous years. As my best friend and roommate would say, this is the Year of the Comeback.
But why come from behind when you can start out ahead? Why go through the ditch around the next turn when we already have a warning sign in front of us?
Learn from the life of Josh Level. I know he would appreciate what I’m about to say too. Assess every day when you wake up in the morning. Say your positive affirmations, listen to inspirational music, get in touch with your spiritual higher being, whatever. But like Nike says, #MakeItCount as well.
Life really is too short to waste if you think about it. Sports teaches us so many life lessons. If you have a body, you’re an athlete by Nike’s standards. So use it! Use it to inspire others. Use it to make your “Heel Print” on the world. Use it to achieve greatness. Then, and only then, might we all be able to leave a mark like 17-year old Josh Level left.
I can only speak for myself but your life, Josh (wherever in Heaven you are hearing me type these words on my keyboard) has touched and inspired me in ways I can’t even begin to describe in words. May your soul forever rest in peace, Brother Level. You are gone but will NEVER be forgotten. Trust.
Ball is life.