There was a very rare solar eclipse today, and, while we know it wasn’t the result of Bucks center Thon Maker’s bright decency blocking out the dark evil of the world, that could have been part of it.
Thanks to his peripatetic background and current profession, the 20-year-old Maker, who’s entering his second NBA season, is both extremely well-traveled and accustomed to flying. And, at 7-foot-1, Maker is also uniquely constructed to be almost-assuredly uncomfortable on any airplane not built specifically for tall basketball players.
But, on Sunday night, Maker’s first-class comfort was secondary to his class-act kindness, as he apparently gave up his spot to voluntarily move and cram into an Economy seat in the last row on a delayed United flight, in order to get it going.
According to Paul Kuzma, who posted an account of what happened and a photo with Maker on Facebook, the player was gracious and utterly unresentful, signing an autograph, standing up often to get out of the way of the snack cart and talking to Kuzma about basketball and the Bucks.
Here’s Kuzma's full post on Facebook:
I had never heard of #ThonMaker before tonight. (I hashtag his name here because I think folks need to know what a CLASS ACT he is when they search his name – and they will search!)
How do I know?
Well, a missed #United flight found me on a rebooked one. After ending up in an upgraded Economy Plus (yay!) middle seat (not so yay!), volunteers were asked one by one, row by row, if one would relocate to the last row of the plane, middle seat.
Economy means lost legroom and last row means no recline and up against the bathroom. In case you're wondering, yes, the bathroom walls ARE thin, thank you very much!
I could see the flight attendant's discouragement as each successive "no" was declared, some rather defiantly. I knew she was coming my way.
Before she could say a word to me, I just asked, "what do you need?" She stuttered, seemingly shocked by my question. Then she stated the need, and her face lit up when I said, "sure!" My own heart lit up at her response!
My heart leapt again when I came to the last row and BOTH the middle AND aisle seats were open! I stowed my gear in the middle seat area but sat in the aisle seat, hoping.
Alas, it was too good to be true! Moments later, a 7'1" tall young man who could not even stand completely straight in the aisle of the plane made his way our direction. My heart sunk, not for me, but for him! I saw him emerge from an Economy Plus window seat!
I told him I was so sorry, knowing this would be uncomfortable for him. He nonchalantly said it was worth it to get this delayed flight going. He had practice to attend in the morning and had a 2+ hour drive to get where he was headed after landing.
"Who do you play for?," I asked, thinking it would be a college. He answered, "the #MilwaukeeBucks." I tried to not show surprise and asked how long he'd been with them. This is his 2nd year.
I'm a football guy, not an #NBA fan. I'm newly a little interested now that a 2nd cousin once removed (whom I didn't know prior and have yet to meet), #KyleKuzma, was just drafted by the #Lakers. Kyle was a star of the #NBASummerLeague, winning MVP of the Championship Game. Turned out that, of course, Thon knows of Kyle.
I had to ask how in the world he ended up in the last row. He also had missed a flight and was rebooked on this one. He was assigned his original FIRST CLASS seat.
He had settled in there when a flight attendant told him the person who had paid for that seat on THIS flight had shown up, albeit very late. They had to move him to Economy Plus.
Once there for a while, his story mirrors mine. Requests were being made for someone to move to the last row and no one was volunteering. So he volunteered, wanting the flight to begin.
He couldn't even fit his knees into the Economy seat! Every time the snack cart came by or someone had to use the restroom, he had to get up and move out of their way.
The entire flight, there was not a hint of resentment in his voice. He was even happy to allow me a picture with him and an autograph. Class act, Thon!
Read his fascinating story at https://www.wsj.com/…/how-former-refugee-thon-maker-became-…
Milwaukee has managed to put together a team filled with good players who are also seemingly great guys. Rising superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is considered one of the nicest dudes in the league, especially with young fans, while Jabari Parker – who was named the Baird Community Involved Athlete of the Year – has become an increasingly vocal advocate of social justice issues.
Maker and fellow rookie Malcolm Brogdon – who recently spoke about the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia – have both been highly active in the Milwaukee community, as have other players like Greg Monroe and Tony Snell. Last month, the Bucks Foundation announced a milestone $1 million grant to 15 local nonprofit organizations.
The smiling, charismatic and potential-filled Maker already was a fan favorite last season; he averaged 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds, but played a larger role down the stretch and had an impact in the playoffs – blocking 1.8 shots per game against Toronto, with the eclipsing effectiveness of the moon. Stories such as this one about his unentitled coolness on a flight will only make him more popular in the city and around the league.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.