Saturday, May 13, 2006

A brother's gift

You want to know where Larry Hughes' drive to succeed comes from?
If you didn't before, you do now. He passed away Thursday.
Larry knew younger brother, Justin, for 20 years. He also probably knew that, at some point, it was all going to end badly. Justin was going to be taken, way too soon.
Justin Hughes was born with a heart defect. At 11, he needed a heart transplant. Last year, he was back in the hospital when doctors discovered signs of organ rejection. The trauma finally became too much for his body this week.
The years of when-why-how have ended now. Larry and his family are left to pick up the pieces and move on.
But Larry can't even grieve in the relative seclusion of the off-season. There are still games to be played for Larry's Cleveland Cavaliers.
Fresh off a dramatic first-round win over Larry's former employer, the Washington Wizards, the Cavs are up against it, facing the mighty Detroit Pistons in the second round.
If life were fair, Larry would be thinking about how to regain his shooting touch, about how to cut into the Pistons' 2-0 series lead. Justin would be back home in St. Louis, healthy and watching Game 3 on TV tomorrow night.
But life isn't fair. And suddenly, you know why all those broken fingers and broken wrists and back injuries Larry has endured in his seven-year pro career don't mean that much to him in the grand scheme of things.
Suddenly you know why through all the injuries, bouncing around to four different teams, the pain, the rehab stints, teaming with everybody for Allen Iverson to Gilbert Arenas to LeBron James, Larry just rolls with it.
Suddenly you know why humbling himself to play a supporting role alongside James is not that big a deal.
In an NBA world of massive egos and petty disagreements that have ruined teams, Larry Hughes has humility in inverse proportion to his talent. And he has his brother to thank. It is a gift that will keep on giving even though he is gone.
Larry has seen exactly how unfair life can be. He has a Grim Reaper tattoo on his arm to remind him that no one know how long they have on this planet, and to make the most of life. He got it when Justin received his new heart.
Larry Hughes knows how blessed he is to be a professional basketball player, with a beating heart and able body. He has the burden of his brother to remind him of that, every day, for as long as he can sprint across hardwood.

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