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I’m swimming on a beach in Bali and have no idea why I’m getting further and further away from the shoreline. My first thought was, “ I can’t die like this”!
I thank the good lord and my parents for blessing me with supreme athleticism which made me a pretty good athlete but not even that superior fitness & conditioning could save me now. I grew up swimming in the Lincoln Square Boys Club in Worcester, Massachusetts so I do  consider myself a very good swimmer; plus having saved my twin sister’s life in a swimming pool many years ago (that’s another story). Now it was my life that was flashing in front of my eyes and I was powerless to do anything to save myself.
Using basketball as my passport to see the world, I had just signed a contract to play professionally in Jakarta, Indonesia for local powerhouse, Aspac Bank. The team owner,  Irawan Haryono was one of the best team owners in the world and he had a great relationship with all of his players. Aspac Bank also owned hotels in Bali which I took full advantage of. If we weren’t practicing or playing games, I could be found in Bali, working on my tan while viewing the incredible furniture stores that graced the island, lol!
As an Aquarian, I’ve always loved the water plus it gave me the opportunity to cool down in such a hot country. As I made my way into the crystal blue waters, I found myself thinking about how truly “blessed I was” to be in this position; being paid a kings ransom to play a sport I love, while seeing all parts of the world because I was a master at dunking on fools. At this point in my career, I had already won an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship at Villanova University, played in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers & accepted contracts in France, Greece, Canada and Australia’s National Basketball League, the NBL.
What I didn’t realize was how quickly an afternoon swim went from, cooling off in the Bali Sea, to a near tragedy that would redefine my life.
As I frolicked in the deep blue, with no sense of time or urgency, I finally looked up and saw that I was about 50 yards from the shoreline. I remember the warmth of the sun & the taste of the salt water as it trickled pass my mouth. With fatigue starting to set in, it was time to head back to the beach so I repositioned myself and headed straight for the my beach towel that was occupied by a few female friends and a teammate. As I perfected my breaststroke, I soon noticed that I was now about 100 yards from my beach towel. Knowing I couldn’t do this forever with the result always taking me further and further away from the beach, I was hit with one resounding thought, “I can’t die like this”.
As survival mode kicks in, thoughts of my mom and family members flooded my mind. Determined to change a fate that seemed imminent, I gave it one more chance to get back to my beach towel. As I tread water on a perfect beach in Bali, I closed my eyes in disbelief. As I opened my eyes, I noticed a man on a Malibu board heading in my direction. First of all, how did I know that it was a Malibu board? I knew nothing about surfing or surf boards but I distinctly remember thinking that he’s on a Malibu surfboard. The man heading my way looked Hawaiian & had dark skin and long, gray hair to his shoulders. He was probably in his late 40’s, early 50’s and I couldn’t believe he was stupid enough to head in my direction. As he called out to me, I pretended not to hear him so he could come a little closer; keep in mind that “my survival” was the only thing on my mind. By this time, I had probably been in the water what felt like the whole afternoon but it was closer to an hour. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say what was on my mind at this particular time but desperate times leads to desperate measures. I actually wanted the surfer to get close enough to me, so I could knock him off of his surfboard and use the board to guarantee my own survival. As he came closer, I was gathering up, what little strength I had left in my body to deal with the impending assault that was about to take place.
Just as he got close enough for me to reach out and touch the board, I was going to make my move. As he approached me, I could see him so clearly. The way he had positioned himself on the board and the energy and effort he was making to get to me. His body was very lean with an athletic build and you could see that he spent a lot of time outdoors. He says to me, “ You’re caught in a rip. Grab my rope and I’ll pull you out of it”. At that time, I had no idea what a “rip” was. My reply was simply, ok! I took the rope as he lead me out of the rip.
As he pulled me parallel to the shoreline and brought me about 50 feet from the sand, he turned & said to me, “you should be good now”. I thanked him and proceeded to swim as fast as I could. As I walked out of the surf and onto the sand, I was about 500 yards south of where my towel was located. I saw my teammate and the girls talking amongst themselves, probably making dinner plans for the evening. My mind was still racing as I turned around searching for oxygen to fill my lungs, thinking that I could have died today! I immediately searched the seas for the Hawaiian man that had saved my life but he was no where to be found. I searched for him on the beach as well and still couldn’t see him. Then it dawned on me; That was my Angel!
My Angel was sent to take care of me. I grew up in the church and always had a strong faith but this was something more tangible than I’ve ever experienced.
Imagine being in such a desperate state of mind, that you actually think about doing harm to the one who was sent to save you! That’s what I have to live with everyday and there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not aware of the many blessings I’ve received. I’m so thankful for my life and all of the continued experiences that awaits me.
How often do we get to recognize the “Angel” or “Angels” in our lives?
I still love Bali. I still love basketball & I still have an unwavering faith that has been with me my entire life. Thank you mom for leading us towards spiritual guidance
with a committed faith.
I know what I experienced that day in Bali was a true miracle. It was this miracle that allowed me to continue my path. A path that gave birth to L.T, Kaleb, Layla and Amber. A path that led me back to the United States and eventually to South Florida. That miracle has also allowed me to share my story with you.
Moral of the story is whatever you can decipher from it but the lesson I was taught that beautiful day in Bali is to be thankful and grateful for everyday you have on this earth because none of us are promised tomorrow!
Dwayne McClain