Tinsley's coat drive turns out to be hot ticket
By Mike Wells
February 11, 2008
PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Jamaal Tinsley had a hard life growing up in a poor Brooklyn neighborhood.
Despite the difficult surroundings, the Indiana Pacers point guard always had a roof over his head, food in his mouth and clothes on his back.
Now Tinsley, the same person some in the city have labeled a "thug" and cast as bad for the Pacers because of several off-court incidents over the past 16 months, continues to give back to the community.
Tinsley held his third annual coat drive at Dick's Sporting Goods locations in Plainfield and Carmel on Sunday. Fans were given up to two tickets to Tuesday's game against the Boston Celtics for donating new or gently used coats. Tinsley said the coats will go to those in need.
An estimated 200 coats were donated in Plainfield, according to the Pacers, who did not have figures yet for the Carmel site, which was held later Sunday.
"It's something different for me, coming from the community I came from, knowing I had the opportunity to give back. That's what I signed up for," said Tinsley, who donated five coats. "I feel blessed to be in a situation to do something like this. You have to feel good. I'm glad people were nice enough to come out here in the cold to donate their coats."
Tinsley was greeted with a warm ovation as he walked into the Dick's in Plainfield.
He, along with a couple of Pacemates and Boomer, the Pacers mascot, signed autographs and took pictures with all of the fans that stood in line to donate their coats. Coats were spilling out of the bins people put their donations in.
"We have liked the Pacers for a while and we have been blessed enough that we have extra coats that (we) can donate," said Berneta Moore of Avon, who donated five coats.
Tinsley is showing a side of himself that not many fans know about. He said most people see him as the person who has been involved in three off-court incidents since October 2006, and a player that has dealt with injuries the past few seasons.
He said there's another side of him. The side that pumps gas for people, visits Riley Children's Hospital and routinely volunteers for the team's community relation events.
"People are always going to have their opinion, but you have to get to know me and see me out in this type of environment," Tinsley said. "I interact just like anybody else. Growing up in a big city, you see other people struggling. I was lucky enough to be successful, so I wanted to give back. This is my third year doing this."
Shannon Medley, 12, said he thinks the Pacers will get their season turned around and he's a fan of Tinsley.
"Even though they've had things happen in the past, they'll pull together and get past what happened before," he said.