Mere hours before the most important game to date of the Houston Rockets’ season, and perhaps the biggest game of his life, Patrick Beverley was sobbing. He sat at his Toyota Center locker, surrounded by teammates and coaches offering their support, and tears flowed. Beverley had just received gut-wrenching news: his grandfather had died. Basketball was, in all likelihood, suddenly the furthest thing from his mind.
Beverley carried a heavy heart with him throughout Sunday night as his Rockets bested the San Antonio Spurs, 125-104, but the game was secondary; it was difficult to not be affected by Beverley’s emotions throughout the night. According to reporters on the scene, they were most raw in the immediate aftermath of the news:
Something is going on with Patrick Beverley. He was crying when he walked in. Was warming up, stopped, sat down & started crying again.
— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) May 7, 2017
It’s unclear when exactly Beverley learned of his grandfather’s death, but word apparently didn’t trickle down throughout the team and the Rockets organization until fairly close to tipoff:
#Rockets weren't aware of situation with Pat Beverley's grandfather until the locker room opened 45 minutes ago (90 before tip). Very recent
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) May 8, 2017
Beverley was reportedly again consoled on the bench during pregame warmups, and struggled to make it through player introductions without breaking down again.
Somehow, when he got out on the court, he funneled all of his emotion toward basketball. He opened the game with a 3-pointer, then pointed up toward the sky as emotion again washed over his face:
Incredibly, Beverley played 25 minutes and finished with 10 points, six assists and four rebounds. The Rockets were plus-27 while he was on the court.
After the game, Beverley was still in pain. Teammate Ryan Anderson, who himself has dealt with tragedy during his NBA career, gave Beverley a hug on the court. “There’s tough times in life, and we’ve just got to stick together, pick each other up,” Anderson told USA Today before the game. “Just my job, and the team’s job, is to support him and be there for him. Hear him. And if he needs anything from us, my door is always open for him. He knows that. It’s tough.”
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) May 8, 2017
Beverley walked back to the locker room alongside team personnel with a towel over his head. Later on, he stepped to the podium for a postgame news conference and delivered a tearful tribute to his grandfather:
“To have somebody that was right there supporting me the whole way, who wore my jerseys every single day of his life … to have a person like that taken from you is hard,” Beverley said through the tears. “It’s so hard.”
Beverley, who was raised by a single mother, was very close to his grandfather, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick. That must have made Sunday’s news particularly devastating. Beverley’s postgame words reflected that.
And as he and others said, his grandfather would have wanted him to go out and play. Easier said than done, of course, but Beverley did, and did so with remarkable strength and courage. As Mike D’Antoni said in his postgame press conference: “He’s incredible. He’s incredible.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 8, 2017