She got game

Kymora Johnson, disqualified from basketball tourney for being a girl, plays at Madison Square Garden

On the brink of a championship, the 10-year-old’s team was disqualified because of a rule barring girls from competing

Kymora Johnson may have been denied the chance at a championship by uncompromising tournament officials, but in suffering that unfortunate fate, she won the chance to play the sport she loves at the world’s most famous sports arena.

Earlier this month, Kymora, a 10-year-old girl from Virginia, was thrust into the headlines when her traveling basketball team was abruptly disqualified from a national tournament because of a rule that prohibited girls from taking part in the competition. Kymora, ever the selfless teammate, pleaded with tournament officials to disqualify only her, and not the rest of her Charlottesville Cavaliers. The team was on the brink of winning a championship.

No dice, said tournament officials. The Charlottesville Cavaliers were sent home disappointed, and the girl’s mother, Jessica Thomas-Johnson, was outraged.

But Johnson and her team prevailed in the end. In a surprise twist, the WNBA’s New York Liberty invited the kids to meet the Liberty players and attend a game at Madison Square Garden.

Kymora and her teammates were also given the chance to play a game on the hallowed hardwood of the world’s most famous sports arena. The entire experience was captured in a brief video put together by the team.

Essence Carson, a guard/forward for the Liberty, was interviewed in the video and recalled that when she was growing up, there were no teams for girls at her school either. She played on the concrete courts as a kid, and said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl — as long as you have the game.”

The chance to play basketball at Madison Square Garden left Kymora and her coaches and teammates in a state of disbelief. In the video, Kymora said she was taken aback by the enormity of the arena, the bright lights and the huge letters on the signs.

“Meeting the Liberty is exciting because the players are people I look up to,” Kymora said. “When I grow up, I want to be a basketball player — and if I retire, I want to be a coach,” she said.

For more, watch the video above, which chronicles Kymora’s adventure visiting Madison Square Garden, and on social media check out the hashtag #BurnBright.

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