Regardless of their character or behavior behind the scenes, superstar athletes are almost always portrayed in a fawning light. We know this. Not until something bad happens do we begin to hear the horror stories of megalomania. So as fans, it's sometimes difficult to fight the urge to be cynical toward superstar athletes.
Then you've got guys like David Lee. As reported in the New York Times, shortly after it was announced that he'd be leaving the New York Knicks for good, Lee left his home in St. Louis and flew to New York City, then drove to upstate New York to attend the funeral of a longtime Knicks security official, Scott Jaffer.
In the words of Jaffer's wife:
“I thought it was wonderful that he came,” Jaffer said. “And it also struck me how he stayed in the back, paying his respects quietly, not wanting to have people say, ‘Oh, it’s David Lee,’ and intrude on my husband’s moment.”
Now, to answer some cynical strawman argument: Is Lee suddenly the greatest guy in the world just because he attended some guy's funeral? Not at all.
But small gestures like these often offer a much better glimpse at character than the expansive profile on a superstar's charity efforts, etc. And in life, generally, it's the small stuff that really defines us. Again from the Times:
Lee had been in St. Louis, his hometown, after being dealt by the Knicks to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade transaction that was announced soon after’s all-about-me extravaganza.
Expected back in New York the next week for a basketball camp, Lee was stunned to hear that Jaffer, 63, had died.
“The guy took care of our security stuff, drug testing, things like that,” Lee said in a telephone interview. “He couldn’t do enough for us, joked with us every night, and it turned out he had cancer for three years and not one of us knew about it.”
So, yeah, it's a small gesture that probably doesn't merit much attention, but I just think it's very cool. And worth noting, if only to say that David Lee seems like a pretty awesome guy.
For more on Lee, and why New York will miss him, enjoy Harvey Araton's full piece in the Times.