H. Jackson Brown once said, “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”
The Suns’ locker room was a perfect example of that on Friday night .
After a tough loss to the New Jersey Nets, while most writers and bloggers were trying to do their best impressions of Edward R. Murrow, something truly special that would reveal more about the team than any quote was taking place in the corner.
A young boy who was in wheelchair, most likely no older than seven or eight, was visiting the team. And his special escort for the evening? None other than Suns head coach Alvin Gentry.
As he sat in his chair grasping a black and orange Gorilla basketball that took up the majority of his lap the way some kids would cuddle their favorite teddy bear, Gentry introduced him to one player after another. Despite having just played, and lost, a tough game, each guy greeted the little boy with a smile and took time to sign a t-shirt for him while using Gentry as an easel.
The interaction was simple and yet impactful.
While most of the people there, myself included, who are in and out of the Suns’ locker room on a daily basis take the experience for granted, you could tell for the young boy it meant the world. Each player that spent a few moments with him seemed to realize that and shared a smile and a laugh or two with him as a way of acknowledging it.
It wasn’t an act done for publicity or the cameras. As a matter of fact, not one of them captured any of the few brief moments, as they were all focused on a somber player talking about what transpired on the court.
That’s what made it so special. It was a truly organic moment that was a reminder that these are just men who happen to play a kids game for a living.
The entire event spoke volumes to the character the Suns have on their roster. But what happened before the boy left spoke volumes to the team leader.
See, there was one Sun that the boy didn’t get a chance to meet. The team’s point guard Steve Nash had left right after the game due to an injury. When coach Gentry noticed the boy staring at the star’s locker he took action without missing a beat. He bent down and said to the young man that they’d just have to go find him something special from Nash that he could take home.
After a few seconds the coach emerged from the rectangular cove holding a trinket from Nash’s personal collection just for the boy. While I won’t tell you what he gave him — that’s for Nash and his coach to discuss — , I will tell you that it brought one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen to his face.
Character is what you do when no one is looking. The fact that the Suns organization is full of high character people was hidden in plain sight on Friday night. I’m just glad I was looking at the right moment to see it.