MEMPHIS – In what was otherwise an unremarkable game between the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, something extraordinary happened at the FedEx Forum last night. Midway through the 2nd quarter, Marcin Gortat grabbed his fourth defensive rebound of the game. He threw an outlet pass to Suns’ point guard Goran Dragic and began jogging up the court when suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks.
At first, it seemed as though Gortat had noticed his shoe was untied. But instead of bending down, he continued staring off into apparent nothingness as he slowly reached out his hand. Normally a player lagging in the backcourt isn’t enough to shift fans’ eyes away from the action in the front court. But when a giant, bald man appears to be having a complex partial seizure forty feet from the basketball, it’s safe to say he quickly grabs the attention of everyone in attendance.
As a hushed and worried silence fell over the crowd, play came to a halt. The four Suns and five Grizzlies on the court turned and stared back Gortat. At that moment, the object of his unflinching stare flapped into view.
A tiny white butterfly peacefully bounced through the air and landed softly on Gortat’s index finger.
From a spiritual standpoint, the juxtaposition of something so large and imposing gently supporting something so small and fragile was a beautiful moment. From an Of Mice and Men standpoint, the possibility of a Lennie-puppy moment was palpably worrying. Gortat pulled his hand and the tiny creature close to his face and continued to stare at it. Media members in attendance have reported this staring continued for somewhere between 10 seconds and 13 minutes. Then the butterfly flapped its wings and flew away into the rafters. Once his winged friend was out of sight, Gortat turned and slowly walked to the bench. His teammates and coaches along with the referees, commentators, hot dog vendors, and fans, all stared at him waiting for some sort of explanation. None came. Play was eventually restarted, and the game continued as if nothing had happened. Gortat was on the floor to start the third quarter and played the rest of the game with normal focus and vigor. After the game, there were a lot of different takes on what transpired.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said, “I was watching the play across the court and thought, ‘Damn, we’re doing a great job on D. We’re flying around the ball and making them work. It’s like we have six guys out there.’ Then I realized Gortat was standing at midcourt. He was frozen. I thought he was staring at his dream girl in the stands or something.”
Recently acquired forward Ed Davis commented, “I thought that Memphis bar-b-que got him. It’s hard to resist, even on game day. I’ve been living in Canada for almost a year. They don’t have ribs or brisket up there. Just poutine. Poutine in the morning. Poutine in the evening. I ate six racks of ribs my first day here. Almost died. I just assumed he [Gortat] was in a full-on meat coma.”
When asked about the butterfly interrupting the game, Grizzlies’ guard Tony Allen said, “Oh that’s just Stephen. He comes and visits me during shootaround some times. He’ll fly around while I’m stretching or shooting free throws, and we’ll just kick it. He’s cool like that. It’s weird that he landed on that dude though. Normally he doesn’t like strangers.”
Gortat’s teammate Jared Dudley had a different take on what happened. “Marcin is a gentle guy. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody. He believes what he puts out into the world comes back to him. You can see it in the way he plays. He’s okay with getting his shot blocked because he believes that will help him block shots in turn. Personally, I think he may need to check his spiritual math. The Durant dunk a few weeks ago really messed him up. Getting posterized like that forced him to reevaluate himself and redouble his efforts toward achieving tranquility. Taking a moment to commune with the butterfly was just his way of righting his world.”
Gortat gave his account to a member of the Polish media. “Czas po prostu zatrzymał. Widziałem latające wokół i pomyślałem sobie: ‘Jestem bardzo zazdrosna o jego wolności i istnienia pokojowych.’ Zaprosiłem go, aby spędzić chwilę ze mną. Byłam szczęśliwa w jego akceptacji. I nigdy nie wiesz, taki spokój i radość. W tym momencie wiedziałem, że prawdę o prawie wszystkiego. Dla nas, by odnieść sukces, potrzebujesz więcej zdjęć Gortat, Michael Beasley musi zatrzymać trójek ”
The translation app on my Blackberry isn’t great with Polish. Here’s what it gave me: ‘Peaceful…jealous of the butterfly…zen…Phil Jackson…truth about everything…more photos of Gortat…fewer Beasley triplets.”
What else is there to say?