Julius Randle led the New York Knicks to a gripping comeback victory over the Miami Heat just five days after his grandmother’s passing, according to The New York Daily News. He learned of the death of his grandmother, Annie Page, while at the Staples Center, playing the game she had always supported him in.
The Knicks honored the memory of Page, who escorted the young athlete on his draft night in 2014, with a moment of silence before the game.
Many may have let such an emotional loss shut them down, but Randle returned to his team triumphantly, leading them in Sunday’s unimaginable comeback victory over the Heat, 124-121. Randle balled out of control, putting up 26 points in just 33 minutes, scoring nine points in the final four minutes of the game.
Randle tried to verbalize his conflicting feelings while knowing his grandmother’s presence carried him through.
“It’s extremely tough. Lot of highs, a lot of lows. My grandmother left an incredible legacy and mark on my life and my family,” Randle said. “It’s been tough. It’ll still be tough. But tonight was special. I really felt her out there the whole time.”
Highs and lows would be an apt description for the Knicks' season on and off the court.
The Knicks, who were on a five-game losing streak with a dismal record of 11-29, were underdogs against the formidable Heat (27-12). Heading into the fourth quarter, the Knicks trailed by 10, but Randle’s performance proved the driving force to push the Knicks over the edge.
Randle’s grandmother is the third death in a player's family this season. Guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s stepmother died suddenly in October. Just two days later, small forward Reggie Bullock’s sister was shot and killed in Baltimore. Tragically, this was the second sister Bullock lost to violence. Five years ago Bullock's transgender sister, Mia Henderson, was stabbed in an alley. The devastating loss prompted the NBA star to become an LGBTQ advocate.
At the time, the Knicks released a statement supporting their players.
“On behalf of Knicks President, Steve Mills: Our Knicks family is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Reggie Bullock & Dennis Smith Jr’s close family members. At times like this, we are reminded that life is bigger than basketball. Our thoughts are with them & their families,” read the statement.
On behalf of Knicks President, Steve Mills: Our Knicks family is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Reggie Bullock & Dennis Smith Jr’s close family members. At times like this, we are reminded that life is bigger than basketball. Our thoughts are with them & their families.— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) October 29, 2019
The Knicks organization doesn’t just offer condolences for tragedies and unexpected loss in their player’s personal lives, their bereavement policy is to allow players an indefinite amount of time to grieve. While Randle was uncertain about returning to the court, he knew that he could find comfort with his teammates who he considers family.
“It’s tough to lose somebody so important to you,” Randle said.
“We had a couple incidents, a couple things have happened to us as a group," the athlete added. "It affects you. It affects all of us. I cried when these dudes lost their family members. It’s tough. I felt the same compassion from them as I did losing my grandmother. It’s tough. Got to keep going.”