Somehow, Ian Mahinmi’s big, strong body played a basketball game Friday night. Played it pretty well, too, scoring 12 points with nine rebounds as the Pacers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-103 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
But Mahinmi’s aching heart and mind were a million miles away, figuratively speaking. Literally, it was more like 4,166 miles, in Paris, where so many of his family members lived, where more than 100 lives ended and exponentially more were affected by separate terrorist attacks throughout the city.
“My sister’s in Paris, but she’s farther up north, so it’s fine,” Mahinmi said in a hushed tone in the locker room after the game. “My mom’s not there now but my mom lives there, my sister, my niece, cousins, uncles, aunts. And then outside my hometown, my Dad, aunt, uncle, cousins and all my friends.”
He said he believes all of his family and friends were OK, but wasn’t completely sure, and the hell was in not knowing.
“I tried to call my people, nobody really answered but I know everyone is good,” he said. “I tried not to think too much about it and focus on what I needed to do on the court to win the game but obviously before the game I was thinking about it.
“It’s hard, it’s very sad, it’s painful but at the same time I didn’t get too many details. Right now I’m going to go and call my people and see what’s going on exactly.”
Mahinmi played his first three professional seasons in France and was a member of the national team for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but a back injury kept him from competing. He did not make the final roster for the French team that competed in the 2015 Eurobasket competition this past summer.
He was visibly upset by the news of the attacks on at least six sites across Paris, including a concert hall, soccer stadium and popular night spots. At least 120 people are believed to have been killed, a toll that most certainly will rise.
“Of course you’re always angry, you always wonder what happened,” he said. “Why are they doing that? What’s the purpose behind this whole thing?”
Those answers, the world will continue to seek, sadly.