A new definition of "power" forward

We live in a generation when military service is voluntary so it is often quite surprising when a professional athlete takes time out from, or leaves his career entirely, to serve. The great Pat Tillman was a very high profile example of this.  Another is former NBA player Tim James. In addition to Tim’s story, we want to acknowledge the Miami Heat and their sense of community when it comes to former players and the military. In this case, they get to recognize someone who represents both groups.

The full article can be found at http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AoaPa.Ce1XqbPD38jw9YCxnTjdIF?slug=ap-heat-asoldierscalling&prov=ap&type=lgns, with excerpts provided below.


Tim James: Former NBA player now with Army in Iraq

By Tim Reynolds, AP Sports Writer
Aug 30

MIAMI (AP)—Tim James apologized for being late. A rough day at work, said the Miami Heat’s 1999 first-round draft pick. Vehicles broke down, problems flared up, and he simply fell behind.

“It happens,” James said. “Even here.”

Even on the front line of the Iraq war.

A former NBA player who often wondered about his true calling, Tim James is now a U.S. Army soldier, a transformation that even many of the people closest to him never saw coming.

“I got my degree, lived the life I was able, have my freedom and became a professional athlete,” James said last week from Iraq. “I’m the example of the American dream.”

James is at Camp Speicher, the massive base near Tikrit, 85 miles north of Baghdad, not far from Saddam Hussein’s hometown and where insurgents still are a perpetual threat. For Miami Northwestern High, the Miami Hurricanes, three NBA teams and some foreign clubs, he was forward Tim James. For the Army, he’s Spc. Tim James of Task Force ODIN—short for Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize.

In layman’s terms, he’s part of the unit tasked with watching and catching the bad guys before they plant bombs.

So long, charter jets, enormous paychecks and Ritz-Carlton hotel stays.

Hello, 130-degree afternoons, 12-hour work days, $2,600 a month and 50-caliber machine guns.

“In life, we all have different desires and needs,” said Leonard Hamilton, James’ college coach and now the coach at Florida State. “With the passion he has, he had to go fulfill this. I’m in total support of Tim and what he’s doing. He’s at peace. All we can do is hope he comes back safely.”

“It’s a pretty impressive thing that he’s doing, making the transition from where he was then to where he is now,” said James’ captain, Curtis Byron. “Such a small percentage of U.S. citizens are in the military or are veterans, doing their part to protect the nation’s freedom. Putting that life behind you, setting aside any thoughts you had before about the military, that’s impressive.”

Byron said James didn’t tell most members of his unit that he used to be an NBA player. James not only didn’t want the attention, he didn’t want to be treated differently than anyone else.

“He’s very humble,” Byron said. “To him, it’s not a big deal at all.”

Oh, but it’s a very big deal to the Heat.

They preach family inside the Heat complex, and even though James played only four games, he’s forever part of the Heat family. Rob Wilson, the team’s director of sports media relations, helped arrange for two boxes of T-shirts and posters to be sent to Iraq as a morale booster. They should get there this week, unless sandstorms delay the arrival of mail—a common occurrence.

Included in that package is an 8-minute, 31-second DVD, with greetings to James from several members of the organization. Another DVD from the Heat is already in the works, and the team is already planning to honor James at a home game this season.

“I just want to wish you good luck, man,” Heat captain Udonis Haslem(notes), who wears No. 40 to honor two of his idols who had that number—his father and James—said on the DVD. “God bless you and keep doing what you’re doing.”

“Stay focused,” said Heat center Jamaal Magloire(notes), a former James teammate. “Never let your guard down and get back to us safe.”

“You’re not like any other basketball player out there,” Heat assistant coach Keith Askins said.

Since 2006, Miami has given a center-court tribute to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at every home game, a program Heat president Pat Riley developed and called the HomeStrong initiative.

He said he cannot wait for James to get his due.

“The work we do, while being important to us, is made possible by the efforts of our soldiers in the Middle East,” said Riley, who coached James in his lone season with the team.

(The article continues at http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AoaPa.Ce1XqbPD38jw9YCxnTjdIF?slug=ap-heat-asoldierscalling&prov=ap&type=lgns)