April 30, 2003

BIG MO

Cheeks Lends Harmony To 1st Round of Playoffs (Michael Wilbon, April 29, 2003, Washington Post)
The lasting, even impacting impression from the NBA playoffs so far is not of Kevin Garnett exhorting his teammates from the bench during overtime, nor Tracy McGrady swooping toward the basket, nor Allen Iverson dropping a double-nickel on the Hornets. It's the unforgettable sight of Maurice Cheeks leaving his team's bench Friday in Portland to put his arm around 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert as she stood at mid-court holding a microphone but having fumbled the words to our national anthem, all alone and visibly in despair.

For 20 years, Marvin Gaye's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" has been, for my money, the most compelling rendition ever. But now, I've got a new favorite, the duet of Gilbert & Cheeks, impromptu, off-key, slapped together as it was. I get goose bumps every time I see the clip of Cheeks hugging Gilbert, telling her everything is going to be okay. People forget the lyrics to the national anthem every single night at a sporting event somewhere.

But when have you ever seen someone moved to the point of walking over to comfort the embarrassed singer, in this case somebody's scared little girl singing the national anthem in public for the first time? How often, in a sports setting, do we ever see such a demonstration of human kindness?

What an extraordinarily decent thing to do. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2003 1:29 PM
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