Goodbye to my friend.

by

As some of you are aware (and have indeed helped me through this difficult time), recently my best friend lost his battle with cancer. Some of you have requested to see the eulogy that I presented at the funeral, so I’ve decided to post it here.

Good Afternoon everyone. We are here today to celebrate a Son, a brother, and a friend. We are here today to celebrate Josh, who left the strongest legacy that I could ever envision, and I feel honoured and privileged to speak about him. The first time I ever met Josh was through competition, playing against him on Monday Nights at Hornsby in the local Basketball comps.  His team, the Gauchos, were always better than ours, and when you play against a team and focus on their best players, you try to learn certain intricacies that they have in attempt to counter their strengths. With Josh, however, it was never about his technique, as flawless as it was. It wasn’t about his speed and strength. It was his intelligence, will and courage that separated him from everyone else on the basketball court, and it was these qualities would translate into life in general. That, and the fact he was the epitome of a gentleman on the court. Not once can I remember him berating a teammate or an official. Not once. He was always encouraging and supportive. Josh’s perspective and understanding, not just in sport but in much more important areas of life, was one that was so simple and yet so beautiful. He was always looking for the good in everyone and every situation, and he more often than not found it. These qualities were perfectly represented with his contagious smile and sense of humour that had the ability to make anyone feel comfortable regardless of the situation. The courage and strength he displayed throughout his journey was nothing short of heroic. We all wanted to support Josh, but he ended up being the rock that supported us. And I find myself in total awe when I speak about Josh McDonald.
 
You know, the first time I actually had a conversation with Josh; we were still on separate teams. He had just finished his game and our game was starting. I was on the bench, and we started talking about the NBA being shown on channel 10 again.  Here we were, relative strangers, talking like we were best friends. Josh’s personality was so friendly and empowering. He was a king amongst men. And the fact that I so vividly remember a random conversation that I had with him 5 years ago is proof that he was not just a very special and incredible human being, but (and I’m certain everyone else here would agree if I went around and asked you all individually) a one of a kind. A one of a kind son. A one of a kind brother. A one of a kind friend, and a one of a kind Man. And now, a one of a kind Angel.
 
The next season, I joined his team, and went up to Hornsby to shoot around by myself. By sheer coincidence, Josh was pulling into the car park as well. We ended up doing drills and talking for hours. From that point on, a few times each week we would go up there and hang out, get some shots up, play pick up games, talk about basketball and life, and I knew there was something very pure about Josh. After meeting and spending time with his family and talking with his Mother (Eva) and his Father (Ray) and sister (Leandra), along with his girlfriend (Mel), I’m certain that is where he got that genuineness from. Every time you guys walk out the door, hold your head up high and be proud, because Josh left one heck of a legacy that very few people can even dream of emulating. 
 
I always knew I would update this. My eulogy speech was directed towards his family and girlfriend and intended as a source of strength for them. I didn’t want it to be focused on me at all. How could I narrow down memories when there are so many of them? Instead, I’ll share them on here. Here’s the first part, centred around things that happened on the court.
The first time I played with Josh, it was a Monday night. Someone turned the ball over and I sprinted to stop a fastbreak. My old team, there wasn’t much commitment from my other teammates and I had been in that position before where I would be in a 3 on 1 (me being the one) so I would have to not only try and force a missed shot, but get the rebound. In this situation, I forced a tough shot and was getting ready to get the rebound when Josh skyed out of nowhere to get that board. Here he was, 6’5, and flying all over the court like me (I’m 5’11). I was shocked, but the next timeout I asked him who he pushed out of the way to get that rebound. He knew I was joking, and I probably should have said “I’m going to love playing with you”, but it wasn’t needed. It was the start of an awesome ride.
 
 It was crazy playing alongside him. I trusted him enough to pop a dislocated finger back into place for me. He trusted me enough to ask if he had dislocated his jaw (I had done that earlier in the year playing rugby). That game when I dislocated my finger, I had to shoot some free throws to ice a game (we were up 2, and the other team intentionally fouled to give themselves a chance to get back into the game). I airballed the first one, and laughed. Josh laughed with me and joked saying that I needed to practice more (because we used to work on our shot 3 or 4 times a week). Some guys on the opposing team started talking trash saying they would foul me again. Josh encouraged their strategy, having complete faith in me. I nailed the second. The other team (who were the reigning champs, by the way, so it was a big game for us) missed a 3, and I was fouled again. I made both which gave us a 5 point lead and sealed it. Josh was incredible that game, completely unstoppable. He was hitting face up jumpers, posting up, getting to the rim with ease. Looking back, that was my favourite game when I was on that team and one of my best basketball memories.
 
I’ve got more. The second game I played with the Gauchos (Josh’s team), it was against my old team. We didn’t end on such great terms, and unless if you’ve left a team where you were the best player and the heart & soul of, you won’t realise the significance of it and the importance of retribution of that disrespect. The first play of the game, I had stolen the ball and made a bullshit, left handed lay up  (after switching hands) over a 6’10 guy. We ended up blowing them out, in which I said some stuff I probably shouldn’t have to a lot of those guys. Josh said to me after the game “Do you miss them yet?” I laughed, then we then talked about more important things, like God of War 3.
 
One moment I do remember though, was a game we didn’t play together in. Josh was injured and couldn’t play in a semi-final. It was a low scoring game, and I was struggling. I made one 3, and then Jamie (the captain) set me up for another. As soon as I released it, and well before it went through the net, I heard this emphatic “YEEAAHH MATTY!!” That was Josh on the sideline, and he was probably more into the game than half of our guys that were playing. We ending up winning easily, but for me the turning point wasn’t me making those shots. It was Josh on the sideline and his support.
 
The absolute best basketball memories came from shooting around. We used to do this “beat the player drill” where you’d have to make shots from a specific area of the court. Make a shot, you get a point. Miss, and you get -2. You win if you get + 10, or lose if you go -10. Every other drill, just straight up shooting, and I was better than him. But Josh loved this drill. I hated it. When his tumour was in remission the first time (around this time last year, actually), the very first thing we did was that drill. He demolished it. It’s not an easy drill to complete! You can make 8 straight shots, but miss 3, and bam, you’re only up 2. It’s a mental thing. It was rare that he didn’t beat that drill, and he consistently smashed it. But to be able to do it after all multiple operations and chemo treatments was just insane.
 
It took him a while before he could start lifting weights again. He never really regained that pure explosiveness that he once had. One time, before all this started with the tumour, we were playing in a pickup game. He was at the top of the key, and he hit a 3. Next possession, the random tried to press up on him, and Josh blew right past him and threw down a massive left handed dunk. That was the last time I remember him dunking, although I’m sure he did again. I’m just drawing a mental blank here. Before he started lifting, I went to shoot around with him and his sister was there too, and there were 3 randoms up there as well who challenged us to a game. They didn’t take it easy on Leandra, but she is as tough as they come. I said to Josh, we have to make her the top scorer (because they viewed her as the weak link on our team). We became consumed with setting her up for easy shots, which she made. And when we had to finish them off, we did.
 
But the very best basketball moment I had with Josh was the last one. I had just fractured my foot, and had to miss 8 weeks of rugby. I went up with Josh to get some shots up, get the body moving a bit. It was funny, he asked what steroids I was on (because I had focused all my training on upper body strength for that time and ballooned up). But my lateral movement sucked. It was super rusty. Then Mahesh, Danny and one of their friends showed up, and wanted to play 2 on 2. I was hesitant, but I couldn’t say no. Not after everything he had been through already. Josh started well, and we rolled through them. We won 5 straight games, first to 11 (3’s worth 2, 2’s worth 1) with losing team subbing a player.
 
That was the final time we ever played.