Courtesy of Red’s Army, I just learned that The Big Ticket has for years paid tribute to both Kirby Puckett and Malik Sealy on all his shoes by marking them with “KP34” and “Malik 2.” The shoes are kind of hot, (and you can win them here) but as a fellow St. John’s University alum, it’s really moving to me that KG still honors his former teammate Malik every night, even eight years after he was tragically killed in a car crash with some drunk driver on the wrong side of the highway in 2000.
Malik Sealy was a great college player back in the day (second in school history scoring behind Mully) and although that was way before my time, I’ve heard enough stories about the man from Lou Carnesecca and others to know that he was a truly great human being who, despite the cliche, truly touched virtually everyone that knew him on a personal level.
Even though he graduated nearly a decade before I arrived at St. John’s, I was fortunately able to have my own run in with him once before he passed.
It was March 1998 in the Fleetcenter (Boston’s home court, now TD Banknorth Garden) and I had the best seats I had ever had for an NBA game. Me and my friend were sitting four rows behind the bench for the Pistons, the team Malik was playing for at the time. It was a pretty horrible game actually, mainly because we were watching the pre-Pierce, Pitino-era, Kentucky Wildcat Celtics and the Dumars-and-Mahorn-were-still-on-the-team Pistons. Seriously these were the starting lineups: Antoine Walker/Kenny Anderson/Ron Mercer/Andrew Declerq/Greg Minor vs. Grant Hill/Joe Dumars/Lindsey Hunter/Bison Dele/Don Reid. Not one player in the entire game scored 20 points.
Malik got a little burn, but he spent most of the game on the end of the bench, yukking it up with teammates, as he was known to do, and finally getting into some back-and-forth jawing with a 14-year-old kid in the stands. The Celtics were getting beat fairly convincingly and after a while Malik was the only thing me and my buddy were paying attention to. He was joking non-stop with Mahorn and a couple of other guys on the bench and generally just enjoying life, but this little kid just wouldn’t leave him alone. I doubt he even knew who Malik Sealy was aside from the program, but he was calling him out by name and ribbing him about riding the pine the whole second half.
Malik was a good sport and just kept humoring the kid by pointing up at the scoreboard. One time the Celtics were making a little run and then Antoine missed two free throws and Malik turned around to the kid and gave him the choke sign. They were going back and forth the whole second half and it was high comedy as they both just kept tryna one up the other with little humorous trash-talking quips.
That’s the whole story. And I suppose it’s not that interesting. But I’ve always been surprised at how vividly I remember it considering I myself barely knew who Malik Sealy was at the time and only really learned about him later at St. John’s and, then, unfortunately even more after he died.
I’m not sure what it was but he was just incredibly charismatic and single-handedly kept our entire section entertained the whole game. I actually walked down the tunnel after the game right behind the kid who had been jawing with Malik and he didn’t stop smiling the whole time. He was just grinning and hopping around like he just got a new bike.
Ultimately, in NBA terms, Malik Sealy was a highly mediocre player. But every time I’ve ever heard anyone talk about Malik, they have had either a smile similar to the one that kid had on their face or a distinctly somber look in their eyes.
So for all of us who remember Malik fondly — even those of us who never actually got the chance to meet him — I would just like to say thank you, Kevin Garnett, for keeping his memory alive.
Malik Sealy: One of the greats.