She’s the Mom of an N.B.A. Participant. And an N.H.L. Participant.

by Christina S. Brown
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On Jan. 9, Tonja Stelly needed to be in two locations without delay. That’s nothing new to her. It’s change into a practice over the previous three years, every time the NBA and NHL schedules collide in simply the proper method.

The Knicks have been taking part in the Portland Path Blazers contained in the world’s most well-known area, Madison Sq. Backyard, that Tuesday. Her son Quentin Grimes, a guard with the Knicks on the time and at present with the Detroit Pistons, had a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. Twenty miles to the east, her son Tyler Myers, a defenseman for the Vancouver Canucks, had a recreation on the similar time, towards the New York Islanders in Elmont, N.Y.

So Tonja and her husband, Ken, alongside together with her brother and his household, hopped on a flight from Texas to New York. Tonja and Ken went to UBS Area to look at Tyler, spending two hours bending their necks between the motion in entrance of them and the cellular phone on her lap, which featured the Knicks recreation. Her brother and his household have been doing the identical factor at MSG, with the sounds of a basketball kissing the hardwood and the Canucks-Islanders recreation on a tiny display screen nestled in entrance of them.

“The individuals sitting round us, after all, have been like, ‘Wow! You’re actually into sports activities,’” Tonja mentioned. “We have been like, ‘Sure, sure we’re.’”

Everybody is aware of about Donna Kelce, the mom of NFL gamers Travis and Jason Kelce. Most individuals are conversant in Sonya Curry, the mom of NBA gamers Stephen and Seth Curry. Only a few, although, are conversant in Tonja Stelly, the mom of the one NBA-NHL brother tandem in historical past.

She’s a sports activities mother and former athlete herself, having performed basketball at Fort Hays State College again in her dwelling state of Kansas. Quentin and Tyler are her solely youngsters, and from October to April, she travels across the nation, bouncing between packed basketball arenas and frigid hockey arenas to see them compete.

She gave start to each in Houston 10 years aside — Tyler on Feb. 1, 1990, and Quentin on Could 8, 2000 — however they’ve completely different fathers. Consequently, they grew up aside in separate households, seeing each other only some occasions a 12 months, if that.

“I used to be like a single baby,” Quentin mentioned, recalling his upbringing.

Three months after Quentin was born, Tyler moved to Calgary along with his father, Paul, who was within the oil and gasoline enterprise, and that’s the place the hockey took maintain. He had already began taking part in the game in Texas — round age 7 — however the sport’s ubiquity in Canada helped him dive deeper into the sport, which set him on a path to the NHL.

Within the summers, and typically throughout spring break, Tyler would journey again to Texas to spend time along with his mother and his little brother. Tonja would take them out to play tennis or basketball, swim or take trip bikes. They’d take annual 22-hour round-trip automotive rides to go see Tonja’s facet of the household in Kansas. She did all the things she might to ensure her sons had a relationship, regardless that they lived, basically, a rustic away from each other.


(Photographs courtesy of Tonja Stelly)

“It was very troublesome whenever you’ve solely bought six to eight weeks throughout the summer season to place that collectively,” she mentioned. “However we might do issues as a household unit and individually.”

Issues like letting them play video video games collectively and take activates selecting the place to eat dinner.

“They might decide various things being that Quentin was 4 and 5 after which Tyler was 14 and 15,” she mentioned.

As Tyler entered his teenage years, the calls for of junior hockey saved him away longer. However Tonja and Quentin would enterprise to Kelowna, B.C., to look at him play in junior and did the identical when he broke into the NHL. Quentin was 8 when the Buffalo Sabres chosen Tyler twelfth within the 2008 NHL Draft. At 6 ft 8 inches, he grew to become one of many tallest gamers in NHL historical past and rapidly made an affect for the Sabres, who made the playoffs his rookie season. Shortly after Quentin turned 10, Tyler gained the Calder Trophy for the league’s finest rookie. He completed within the prime 20 for the Norris Trophy, which honors the league’s finest all-around defenseman, in every of his first two seasons.

The Sabres playoff sequence spurred Quentin’s appreciation for the game for greater than his affiliation to it through Tyler.

“I bear in mind seeing that environment, and I feel I took extra curiosity than the common Texan watching hockey,” he mentioned. “I inform individuals on a regular basis, with playoff hockey, I don’t suppose there’s a greater environment — banging on the glass, shoving, pushing, hip-checking, it’s tremendous fast-paced, individuals throw stuff on the ice. They’re not doing that at a basketball recreation.” (Nicely, except they’re Jamal Murray, however we digress.)

Round 9, Quentin started taking part in AAU basketball, and like his older brother, rapidly stood out amongst his friends. By highschool, it was obvious he’d comply with within the footsteps of his basketball-playing dad and mom. Tonja Nuss was a 5-10 guard on the 1985-86 Fort Hays workforce that went 18-12. His father, Marshall Grimes, was a 6-foot guard for Santa Clara and Louisiana-Lafayette within the late Nineteen Seventies and early Eighties.

As a five-star recruit, Quentin initially performed at Kansas earlier than transferring to Houston after his freshman season. There, he blossomed into the main scorer on the Cougars’ 2021 Remaining 4 workforce, resulting in him being chosen twenty fifth by the Knicks within the NBA Draft.

Solely so many individuals know what it takes to be an expert athlete. And fortunately for Quentin, his brother is one in every of them. Tyler might share how one can prepare like an expert athlete, and how one can eat like one. However he additionally needed to let Quentin “carve his personal path.”

“As an athlete, I do know I don’t wish to bombard him with an excessive amount of recommendation or an excessive amount of which may overwhelm him, however definitely little issues right here and there I’ll throw at him,” Tyler mentioned. “Even final month, I used to be studying this e-book and I forwarded him what it was all about and advised him to test it out. Simply little issues like that right here and there, that I feel will help him out, and something that I’ve gone by means of alongside the way in which.”

The NBA and NHL schedules don’t overlap in a straightforward method for Tyler and Quentin to see one another play reside. “We form of must maintain tabs on one another from afar,” Tyler mentioned.

However Quentin taking part in in New York to start his profession helped when the Canucks would swing by means of town to play the Rangers, Islanders and Devils in succession. Tyler attended one in every of Quentin’s dwelling video games a few years in the past, and so they shared a few dinners collectively.

“As you see them mature into adults and discover their method, particularly since Tyler was gone at such a younger age, to see that circle again to them now as adults is fairly particular,” Tonja mentioned whereas preventing again tears. “Fairly particular.”


(Photographs courtesy of Tonja Stelly)

When Tyler spoke by telephone earlier this week, he was already excited for his mother and brother to come back to Vancouver this week for the Canucks’ second-round playoff sequence towards the Edmonton Oilers.

Equally as thrilling within the days main as much as Mom’s Day, Quentin will get to fulfill Tyler’s three youngsters (Tristan, Skylar and Tatum) for the primary time.

“It’ll be superior,” Tyler mentioned upfront of the go to. “The youngsters will get to fulfill their uncle, and it’ll be nice for them to attach.”

For Tonja, who helped increase two boys with completely different cultural backgrounds, pursuits and upbringings, “It’s a reasonably particular weekend.”

What could possibly be extra particular?

Nicely, Quentin has one 12 months left on his contract with the Pistons at $4.2 million and will probably re-sign long run. Tyler is pulling in $6 million this season and is ready to change into a free agent July 1.

Loads must line up, however it’s awfully tempting to surprise if Tonja’s sons might someday name the identical area and the identical metropolis dwelling. In spite of everything, the Detroit Pink Wings might probably be available in the market for a right-handed defenseman this summer season.

“I feel they (might use one), too,” Tonja mentioned with fun. “That might be so superior.”

(Picture illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; pictures courtesy of Tonja Stelly ) 

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