South Sudanese NBA player Thon Maker’s humility that moved US pastor in plane

Paul Kuzma and Thon Maker

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 Airline 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  Milwaukee Bucks.” 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), Kyle Kuzma, was just drafted by the Lakers. Kyle was a star of the NBA Summer League, 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!

Watch the clip.

By Paul Kuzma