12 minutes, 25 seconds played.
That was Roy Hibbert’s stat line Thursday night in Atlanta.
And I’m giving him a standing ovation today.
Because there’s one thing about Hibbert’s act that didn’t show up in last night’s stat line.
It’s easy to admire the stars—especially when they’re shining brightly on center stage.
It would be easy in this space to laud Indiana Pacers players Paul George, David West and George Hill after their on-the-court performance in Atlanta Thursday night. And they—and other Pacers players—certainly deserve cheers for beating the Hawks in a do-or-die game.
Sometimes, though, other stars shine just as brightly as the obvious ones. You just have to look a little off-camera to see them.
Thursday night, Hibbert put on a performance that could serve as an example for any young athlete competing at any level. When the cameras were on him, and even when they weren’t, he was a true role model.
I’m not cheering Hibbert for his play on the court, but the way he handled himself last night off the court.
Warming the pines during a big game is tough for anyone to handle. I would imagine it’s a little more difficult for Hibbert, an NBA all-star, who has turned himself into one of the league’s best big men in the last four years.
When the chips were down Thursday night, Hibbert was mostly parked on the bench. He barely played more than one-fourth of the game. He played 18 fewer minutes last night than he averaged during the regular season.
But the fact is, Hibbert has seemed like a fish out of water in this first-round playoff series. So Pacers coach Frank Vogel benched him last night in favor of smaller and faster players who could spread the floor and counter Altanta's lineup.
Much of the local media and hometown fans have been screaming for that move for the better part of the last 10 days. Hibbert had become a drag on the Pacers. And I imagine that realization for Hibbert hurt.
But instead of wearing a frown or scowl like someone who just missed the last train home, Hibbert stood on the sidelines waving a towel, clapping, cheering his teammates, seemingly trying to will the Pacers to victory any way he could. During timeouts, he was the first one off the bench congratulating his teammates for their play and urging them forward.
Maybe it was all an act. If it was, it was a good one. I prefer to think what fans saw Thursday night was genuine.
Either way, Hibbert buried the desire that all big-time athletes have--to shine when the spotlight is on. He sidelined his own desires for the good of the whole. That's a rare quality in our stars these days.
And for that I’m rising up out of my chair today and putting my hands together for No. 55.