Adam Morrison,Gonzaga's 6'8" junior forward, is always described as "one of akind." That's bull. He's all kinds.
Like Tom Hanks,he talks to balls. Last Thursday night, when he willed the Zags to acome-from-dead win over Xavier in Round 1 of the NCAA tournament, he grabbed amonster rebound and began pounding the ball into his forehead, screaming,"This is mine! This is my f------ ball!"
Like BillO'Reilly, Morrison almost never shuts up. He'll bomb threes while thanking histeammates. "Nice pass, Derek!" Swish. Against Xavier he buried twogame-winning free throws while jawing nonstop with a couple of Xavier players.Isn't it distracting to talk and shoot? Morrison pauses, fingers his hockeymustache (five a side) and shrugs, "I guess not."
Like Steve Nash,he is allergic to combs. His Let-It-Be flop-top is constantly in his eyes, overhis ears and down his neck, and he's forever playing with it on the court. Toprepare it takes "zero minutes," he says. "It falls where it falls.My mom wishes it were neater, but I get good grades, so what can shesay?"
Like Bill Walton,he's slightly left of Mother Jones. Of President Bush, he says, biting his lip,"I've liked other presidents better." On Iraq, he adds, "We shouldhave sent all those troops to get Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Why did we goafter Saddam? What did he do to the U.S.? There's been no link proven betweenhim and 9/11."
Like MagicJohnson, he runs as if he's got heel bruises and dribbles like a man trying tochase down a balloon. He shoots funny too, from behind his head, the kind ofshot you can get off in a phone booth. Must work. He leads the nation inscoring.
Like MichaelJordan, he craves the ball. And he positively must have it when a victory is inperil. When he doesn't get it, he is torqued off, sometimes screaming at histeammates, as he did in the Xavier game and as he probably will on Thursdaywhen Gonzaga plays UCLA in the Sweet 16. They always forgive him, though, sincenobody since Jordan himself has made more big-moment shots.
Like Larry Bird... well, he does everything else like Larry Bird. He dips tobacco like Bird,drinks like Bird, swears like Bird, works frantically to get open like Bird andscores like Bird. "He reads about Bird like it's the Bible," saysGonzaga head coach Mark Few. Morrison's favorite sign this year? BIRD WAS ABETTER PLAYER AND HAD A BETTER 'STACHE. "I thought it was cool," hesays.
But there is onething Morrison has that none of these stars share. Every day he lives with type1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Complications from the disease killed two ofhis forebears, a great-grandfather and a grandmother.
He wears aninsulin pump everywhere but on the court. He must check his levels and injecthimself three or four times a game on the bench. "Sometimes I'll have totake him out," Few says. "He won't even see it in himself. He'll bedragging his feet, acting weird. He'll get mad, but once he has his shot, he'sfine again."
Diabetes is not abad knee or a bum elbow. It's with him 24/7. Sometimes he'll wake up hislive-in girlfriend, Ashley Wells, in the middle of the night, desperate."You can tell right away, he's faded out," she says. "It's likeyou're not even talking to Adam. His skin is pale, and his eyes roll up in theback of his head. And I have to get him chocolate or a peanut butter sandwich,and then he snaps back to normal."
Like LanceArmstrong, Morrison has become a hope machine for those who suffer from hisdisease. A lot of diabetics think of Morrison as a role model. Imagine that: asports hero with a syringe.
Not a day goes byin which Morrison isn't calling, writing or signing for a diabetic kid. Whenapproached, he pulls the kid away from his parents, "so they can ask mequestions they might be too embarrassed to ask," says Morrison. Says Fewwith a grin, "Now, ordinarily, Adam giving advice to kids is not somethingI'd recommend. But with diabetes, it's terrific."
Diabetessufferers live an average of 15 fewer years than the rest of us. No wonderhe'll almost certainly turn his 'stache into cash and jump to the NBA thisyear. "Time is of the essence," he says. "I'm going to deterioratea little faster than anyone else."
Says his 6'6"father, John, "You never know when the diabetes is going to turn the otherway. Could be his eyes. Could be his feet. Could be anything. He's way abovethe curve about taking care of himself, but it could happen. So he has to thinkabout that. He can always get his degree [later]."
Adam Morrison isnot one of a kind. He's one in a generation, rare and brilliant, and you oughtto watch him now because he could blaze out before you know it.
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