The term "heroic" is often thrown around loosely in sports. A heroic comeback. A heroic play. A heroic recovery.
Malcolm "Jimmy" Keep is an 88-year-old World War II veteran who was 18 when he fought with the Fourth Marine Division in the horrific 1945 Battle at Iwo Jima, which took the lives of 7,000 Marines.
Later this month, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle, Keep is returning to the island for the first time. Before his trip, though, he was featured in his hometown paper, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, in which he revealed he is a die-hard Grizzlies fan who never misses a game on television. The tough-as-nails veteran has a particular fondness for the team's Grit 'n Grind bruiser, Zach Randolph.
"They're men," Keep told the CA of the Grizz. "They're not afraid to bust your ass to get to the basket, especially [Zach] Randolph. Randolph's my man."
Only problem? In his advanced age, Keep had never been able to get to FedExForum to see his NBA team play in person.
So the Grizzlies decided to fix that, inviting him and his family to sit in owner Robert Pera's courtside seats for Friday's game.
Not only that, but he got some autographed team gear, a pregame visit from his favorite player and a rousing standing ovation during a break in the third quarter. Check it out:
Keep watched the entire game from courtside -- seen pumping his fists a few times during the Grizzlies' 97-90 comeback victory -- and afterward had a priceless interaction with Z-Bo, who sought out his new friend after racking up 24 points and 13 rebounds in the win. Randolph gave Keep his signature yellow headband and pleaded with him to come back in the future since he's a good-luck charm.
@MacBo50 meets Iwo Jima vet and says "I'ma look 4 you in the stands.I'll tell the grizz to call Ya and I'll pick you up!" What a great guy— Gian (@GrizzlyGian) March 7, 2015
"He's the man because he's brave," Keep told Grizzlies.com. "He gets three or four elbows in his side and he can still score. He's a warrior. Zach would make a hell of a Marine. He'd be one of those Marines that would never take a step back. [And] yeah, I know something about that."
The respect was obviously mutual.
"What he went through on the front lines, protecting his left-hand man and protecting his right-hand man? I respect that and I know that," Randolph said. "I told him, for me I look up to him. I want to get where he is. It's a real blessing to have him here and to know him."
After a special night in Memphis, there's really only one thing left to say:
Dear Iwo Jima WWII veteran: pic.twitter.com/quFqY4VttW— Kerry Hayes (@Kerry901) March 7, 2015