Before Kevin Garnett had fully established himself as an NBA superstar, before he won an NBA title and staked his claim to becoming a future Hall of Famer and a player that rookies look to for advice, KG looked up to the late Malik Sealy.
Garnett and Sealy became close friends and teammates with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1999-2000 season, their bond extending well beyond the court.
KG admired how hard Sealy worked on his game, how respectfully he treated others, how he wasn’t content to be identified solely as a basketball player, branching out into acting and developing his own line of neckties.
Sealy was returning from KG’s birthday party on May 20, 2000 when his S.U.V. was struck by a pickup truck being driven by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the highway.
Malik Sealy, 30, died that night, died way too young with too much to live for.
But his legacy lived on, lived on through his son Malik Remington Sealy, now a high school student, and his wife, Lisa, who made certain their son would follow in his father’s admirable footsteps.
Sealy was inducted into the St. John’s Hall of Fame Sunday night in an emotional ceremony. Malik Remington Sealy and Lisa accepted the honor, but they were not alone.
Garnett, who almost came to St. John’s, and former Red Storm star Mark Jackson of Brooklyn, now the coach of the Golden State Warriors, remembered the regal young man from the Bronx who grew into the most decent of men.
“Well deserved,’’ KG told BrooklynNets.com about Sealy’s St. John’s honor. “Well deserved. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to go to St. John’s, he and [former coach] Lou Carnesecca. One of the first pieces of mail I ever got being recruited was from Mr. Lou, so that’s dope, that’s cool.
“I experienced Malik from a player’s perspective. Obviously when he was away from his family, I was able to interact with him. He had a great impact on my life just as a player. He was a player I wanted to emulate and be like. He was my inspiration.’’
Jackson expressed similar sentiments.
“Actually myself and my mom, I can remember recruiting him to go to St. John’s with his family,’’ Jackson said. “He was a Hall of Fame person.
“What he meant to the program, how he conducted himself, not just in his years at St. John’s but afterwards, in the NBA. The impact he had on other guys, like Kevin Garnett, speaks volumes, not of the player but the person.
“I’m just honored and blessed to have had an opportunity to have a relationship with him. A special shout out to his family, to his wife and son; they should be extremely proud. It’s a well-deserved honor.’’
These are the behind-the-scenes ties that bind in the NBA.
Put aside the multi-million dollar contracts and fancy cars that many NBA stars enjoy.
Friendships are made. Accomplishments are appreciated. Deaths are mourned.
Sam Mitchell, also a former teammate with Sealy and Garnett, and now a TV analyst with TSN and NBA TV, was the Minnesota player that rang the doorbell at Sealy’s house that fateful night in May and told Lisa of the tragedy.
Lisa Sealy and Malik Remington spoke at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
"It's a blessing that Malik is receiving this great honor," Lisa Sealy said. "We all miss him, and I'm so grateful that he has the opportunity to have his name up alongside the other inductees.
“He would have been very honored. He loved this university. He did everything he could for it and he would be amazed at what it has become."
Sealy’s No.21 hangs from the rafters at Carnesecca Arena.
Malik Remington, who has often spoken eloquently of his father, summed up his father’s legacy best.
“No one has said anything bad about my dad ever,’’ he said.
This is what KG and Jackson remember, more than Sealy’s 10.1-point scoring average or his 80.1-percent free shooting or his storied career at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine in the Bronx or the more than 2,000 points scored at St. John’s.
They remember the father. They remember the husband. They remember the man.
“What I’ve seen of him with his son, the few times I’ve seen him, he seemed to be very cordial, very soft, very giving, understanding,’’ said Garnett.
“If you knew Malik, you knew he was a giver first. He was a very, very intelligent, very high-intellect guy and someone that I was dear to. He was dope. He was cool for the time that I knew him. I’m thankful he came into my life.’’
SEAT BELT LAW: G.M. Billy King seems to have pulled off quite a deal for the Nets just before the trade deadline.
King sent veteran guard Jason Terry, 36, and forward Reggie Evans, 33, to the Sacramento Kings for guard Marcus Thornton. In just his third game with the team, Thornton led the Nets to a 107-98 in Milwaukee. He scored 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
“It will only get better from here, man,” Thornton said after scoring 12 of his 25 in the fourth quarter. “So buckle up.”
COLLINS SETTLING IN: Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in any of the four major sports leagues in America, was looking to make his home debut Monday night in Barclays Center.
Collins hopes the attention he’s received will shift to what he can contribute to the Nets. At 7-feet, 255-pounds, Collins is known for his pulverizing picks that free up shooters, and his willingness to foul rather than give up a basket.
In the Nets' win in Milwaukee, he set a crunching pick on Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo had the wind gush out of him as he bent over and looked to the refs for help.
Collins recalled the play and acknowledged how much he enjoys that part of the game.
“Especially if it’s a blindside pick,’’ said Collins. “That’s fun.
BIG TICKET, BIG WORRY: Kevin Garnett missed his second straight game with back spasms. When he sat against the Milwaukee Bucks, coach Jason Kidd said it was precautionary but the Nets know how unpredictable back spasms can be. Andrei Kirilenko missed almost two months with the same ailment.