This one isn’t going to be about anything Donyell Marshall did on the basketball court. It’s not going to be about when he went up against Kerry Collins back in high school, not going to be about playing under Jim Calhoun at UConn, not going to be about however many points he scored or rebounds he got from however many teams in the NBA.
This one is about how Donyell Marshall gets it.
It’s all Donyell after this sentence, I promise, but I overlapped with him over the years — as a reporter for the Reading Times after I graduated from college and when he played for the Warriors early in his career. My dad reffed a bunch of his games in high school.
Anyway, lo and behold, Donyell becomes a Warrior and I’m covering the team he’s playing for. It’s early in his career. Real early … like his second year in the NBA. That puts Donyell at 21 or 22 years old. I was 30 at the time, but Donyell was older than me. You’ll see what I mean.
So we’re in Dallas one night, it’s the night before a game, and I’m coming back from dinner at, I don’t know about 10:30-ish. I walk through this nice lobby at the fancy hotel (The Anatole), and begin searching for my room key — or whatever it was at the time — as I make my way to the elevator. When I look up, I see Donyell on the payphone. I mean, if you’re 25, maybe you don’t know what a payphone is. Cant help you.
So Donyell is on this payphone, but he’s also in this confined space. Hard to describe. He wasn’t in a phone booth, but he only had so much room where he was making the call. Donyell is about 6-foot-9, and put it this way, his body was contorted. He couldn’t have been at his most comfortable.
We made eye contact, but I didn’t want to interrupt his call. I clearly looked confounded. I was perplexed as to why Donyell Marshall was having a conversation on a pay phone in the lobby of this five-star hotel … when just 18 floors above he had a double-king sized bed, phone to his right, TV on with no volume in front of him.
Donyell saw my consternation, put the phone down to his chest and said: “What’s up?”
I said: “Why are you here in the lobby, all uncomfortable, talking on the phone when you can just be doing it in your room?”
Donyell looked at me, perplexed himself. He didn’t get why I was even asking that question. “Man,” he said. “Do you realize that every time I make a call from my room, the hotel charges me 50 cents?”
I said … “Yeah, so?”
Donyell Marshall was only 22 years old, and he’d already signed a nine-year, $42 million contract. GUARANTEED! And he was not paying an extra 50 cents if he didn’t have to, even if it meant he could stretch out on his double-wide. This ain’t about Donyell Marshall being cheap, either; it’s about Donyell Marshall being responsible. I’ll never forgotten how grown up he was at his age.
I was probably making $42,000 at the time and I probably wouldn’t have made a call from the lobby of a hotel if you gave me 50 cents for every call I made. I don’t have that perfect wrap-up sentence. Just that memory, which always tells me Donyell “gets it.”