Shortly after today’s game seven, I learned, via Twitter, that Rasheed Wallace had gone to the officials’ locker room post-game, but before he had a chance to speak, Staple Center security forced him out of the building. Considering that Sheed’s team had just lost a closely contested match and his reputation as a hot-tempered knucklehead with a history of butting heads with officials (he’s the NBA’s all time leader in technical fouls), everyone, from the sportswriters on twitter to myself, assumed he was up to no good. But turns out, that was not the case. Sheed’s body had given up on him this season — he’s been suffering from recurring back spasm and various nagging injuries — and although no announcement had been made, he knew, heading into this game seven for the world championship, his basketball life was coming to an end. What he had wanted to do post-game, turns out, was speak with the veteran referees — the same guys he has feuded with over the past 15 years — and say goodbye. He didn’t get the chance, because security –and all of us — assumed he was there to start a ruckus. I haven’t been the biggest Sheed fan, and for the longest time I’ve bashed him for being a dumbass on the court with his emotional outbursts.
But tonight, I realized that there is, perhaps, nothing wrong with being emotional. One can say Sheed is too attached, too knuckleheaded, too hardcore. But you can’t accuse him of not caring.
Tonight, in the biggest game of the season, not only did he show up and give a gutsy performance, he was man enough to walk to the locker room of his former enemies to say goodbye. Getting mad is easy, getting over it and extending that hand to say bye is the true measure of a man.