Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was so distraught he nearly sat out the night instead of coaching his team, and shed tears afterward. There was a pregame prayer in the New Orleans Pelicans locker room, and the P.A. announcer led a moment of silence out in the arena.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he was "sick to death." Nuggets coach Mike Malone said that, upon hearing the news, he coached angry the entire first half of his team's game.
We forget, sometimes, what an insular world professional sports is. We forget that it is, beyond being an exclusive club populated by people whose talents have made them rich, that it's also a brotherhood, a fraternity, a community bound as much by love as by the fierceness of its competition.
And so when the word came down last night that Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams' wife Ingrid had died after being struck head-on in a traffic accident, the community responded. It responded in New Orleans, where Williams was head coach for five years. It responded in San Antonio, where he played and started his coaching career under Popovich's wing. It responded in Los Angeles, where Rivers is a close friend, and in Denver, where Williams has another close friend in Malone.
The game is a thread, and the thread is unbreakable. It runs through even the fiercest of rivalries, through bad blood and grudges and personal conflict and the sometimes inexplicable issuing of pink slips, because everyone understands what it takes to get where they've all gotten, and what a frail and transitory thing the game, and the life of the game, can be.
The life of the game. Or life, period.
Sometimes we forget.
They never do, nor ever will.