Friday, June 24, 2011
Lists of Fury: Feel-good stories
By Eamonn Brennan
It's the day after the draft. For me, that means sitting at my desk, staring at my computer screen, and wondering if what I saw last night unfold last night is really how things went down. In other words, I'm still processing all this.
You know what else the Draft Day Plus 1 means? Listicles. Lots and lots of listicles.
You know what I always say: If you can't beat them -- if you can't think of a similarly efficient content delivery format that doesn't rely so heavily on lists, basically -- join them. Without further ado, here's one of a few college hoops-inclined looks at last night's action. Last but not least: The biggest feel-good picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.
1. Jimmy Butler comes full circle: By now, you've almost certainly heard the story of Jimmy Butler. Still, no matter how many times you read Chad Ford's excellent profile of the newest Chicago Bull -- it's like "The Blind Side" of basketball -- the story doesn't get any less affecting. Still, even before anyone knew his backstory, most college hoops fans respected Butler as an unselfish, versatile worker, a guy who agreed to sublimate his own scoring talent and play out of position in order to help his team win. If you felt some strange twinge of second-hand pride at seeing Butler land a guaranteed contract, well, you weren't the only one.
2. Kenneth Faried's contagious spirit: Watch five minutes of Kenneth Faried playing basketball, and you'll immediately develop an appreciation; Faried competes with the kind of drive few players ever possess, let alone harness. When our own Dana O'Neil spent time with Faried and his family in February, she learned the source of that drive. Faried had a challenging upbringing in rundown Newark and Jersey City. His mother, Waudda, fights an off-and-on battle with lupus that has hospitalized her for months at a time. His transition to college was marked by his effect on others, including a professor who cried when O'Neil asked her about Faried, and who easily recalled an essay he wrote as a freshman on his dream of playing in the NBA. On Thursday night, Faried achieved that dream, doing so in his hometown, surrounded by his family, with his young daughter in his arms. It doesn't get much better than that.
3. Isaiah Thomas proves there's no such thing as Mr. Irrelevant: Year after year, the brash, undersized Washington point guard has listened to people tell him why he wouldn't succeed. Year after year, he's only proved them wrong. Chalk Thursday night up as another chapter in Thomas's saga: Derided by many as too small for the NBA, and criticized by some for leaving school after his junior year, Thomas was indeed drafted anyway. The twist? He had to sweat it out, waiting all the way until the very last pick of the draft to hear his name called. Thomas's next step? Proving he belongs. Would you bet against him?
4. The Morris family's big, bittersweet night: The Morii haven't always been the most sympathetic characters in college hoops, and they certainly weren't shy about their confidence in the weeks before Thursday night's draft. But perhaps only the staunchest Missouri fans could have viewed the twins' back-to-back selections with an acid eye. Surprisingly, Markieff Morris was the first of the two to be selected at No. 13 by the Phoenix Suns. Markieff and his brother hugged, did their patented handshake, and just as Markieff took the stage to shake hands with NBA commissioner David Stern, the camera panned to Marcus, sitting in his chair, crying his eyes out. It was a bittersweet moment. For the first time, the twins -- who have always played, lived, and gotten tattoos together -- will separate. As happy as he must have been, Marcus, who was public in his discomfort with the separation, seemed to be processing that fact for the first time.
Then, with the very next pick, the Houston Rockets selected the other Morris. In that way, the NBA draft was just like the rest of the Morii's lives: They did it together.
5. The Purdue duo reunites: Both Purdue players in the draft, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, were selected by the Boston Celtics Thursday night. Why is this so cool? It's not just because the two close friends get to keep being teammates. It's also because now, Moore and Johnson -- both of whom are high-character, mild-mannered workers -- will have the chance to chase a title together in the NBA, something Robbie Hummel's cruel ACL tears robbed them of in two straight collegiate seasons at Purdue. Thus far, the Celtics seem intent on keeping both players around, at least for the immediate future. If so, the two could be key role players in Boston's last-ditch attempt at an NBA title run in 2012. How cool is that?