Tyrese Haliburton’s sensational journey in the NBA in-season tournament propelled by the unwavering support of his father.

LAS VEGAS – After Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton nailed a nasty step-back 3-pointer over the Milwaukee Bucks’ 7-foot-1 center Brook Lopez with 48 seconds left, Haliburton looked at his wrist as if there was a watch and yelled twice, “I know what time it is,” before pointing at himself. Among Haliburton’s ecstatic family members in the stands was his proud father John, who screamed in excitement, sporting his one-of-a kind “TH” silver necklace, his son’s black Pacers jersey and bright yellow pants.

“We came for a purpose. He played for a purpose. And that purpose is to win this tournament. It means … Oh my God! I’m just thankful. God is good,” an emotional John Haliburton said after the Pacers’ 128-119 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday in the semifinals of the NBA in-season tournament.

The Black fathers of NBA players such as Haliburton, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ja Morant, Cole Anthony, Devin Booker, R.J. Barrett, Darius Garland, Wendell Carter, Jr., and rookies Victor Wembanyama and Jett Howard have been positively highlighted in recent years. But Tee Morant received criticism even before his son, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, serving a 25-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the organization. LaVar Ball, the father of brothers Lonzo and LaMelo Ball, has been criticized for being vocal and flamboyant.

Haliburton said some believe his father is too enthusiastic. Even so, he believes one thing that can’t be questioned is the love of African American fathers for their NBA sons.

“You see the support with LaVar and Tee Morant, Karl-Anthony Towns,” Haliburton told Andscape after the Bucks win. “All of the dads out there are loud and proud. I love to see that. It’s important. Representation matters. People are getting mad at the attention that my dad gets, Tee gets, other guys gets. It’s just men loving on their children, and you got to love that.”

John Haliburton, father of Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, stands alongside the court before the Pacers’ in-season tournament semifinal game against the Milwaukee Bucks at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas.Marc J. Spears/Andscape
Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton reacts after hitting a 3-pointer against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half of the Eastern Conference semifinal game of the inaugural NBA in-season tournament at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Haliburton began his NBA career with the Sacramento Kings in 2020 before being dealt to the Pacers at the trade deadline in 2022. It’s been a memorable 2023 as he became a first-time NBA All-Star and played for USA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup team. But nothing has made his spotlight brighter in small-market Indianapolis than making it to the title game in NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament.

According to ESPN BET, the Pacers had 40-1 odds to win the in-season tournament. Haliburton led the Pacers to landing a trip to Las Vegas for the semifinals of the tournament with 26 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and zero turnovers as they shocked the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics 122-112 on Monday. On Thursday, Haliburton had 27 points, 15 assists, 7 rebounds and zero turnovers against the Bucks to make the championship game. The shocking Pacers will play the LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night in the tournament championship game with each winning player earning $500,000.

“It’s an exciting time, but to be honest it’s not about the money,” Haliburton said. “I know a lot of guys talk about the money. But it’s about winning. It’s about saying I won and others didn’t. I’m a competitor. I want to win. That is what it is about for me.”

Haliburton was born on Feb. 9, 2000, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. His father taught him basketball, was his first coach and told him countless times to watch how Magic Johnson played on YouTube videos. Twenty-three years later, John and Brenda Haliburton are enjoying their son’s growing stardom by watching him play the biggest games of his NBA career in Las Vegas.

An hour before Friday’s game, John Haliburton was proudly holding court on the T-Mobile Arena’s hardwood floor, sporting a diamond-encrusted silver necklace with the letters “TH” on it. By design, pops made sure the other family members’ special “TH” necklaces were made of gold instead. John’s yellow pants and No. 0 Haliburton jersey made him easy to spot for fans in the upper deck. He is a growing celebrity, visiting numerous media members and enthusiastically taking pictures with several Pacers fans before the game. Turner Sports even asked him to do a television interview afterward.

So, does Haliburton get his swag from his pops?

“A little bit. A little bit. He definitely laid the groundwork, but I’m taking it to another level for sure,” he said with a smile.

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A post shared by Tyrese Haliburton (@tyresehaliburton)

John Haliburton said he told his son during dinner Wednesday night that he is still in awe of his NBA accomplishments and how every step of success has meant the world to him. That doesn’t mean John Haliburton has stopped being a father to his child. Whether his son is on or off the court, he demands that he respects his family and has pride and honor in his last name.

“I raised my kids to honor their mother,” John Haliburton said. “She is No. 1, no matter what. But I also know as fathers we have a job to do. We have to be an example to our kids. We have to be about our kids. We have to show our kids. And the most important thing, when your kid walks in this world playing the game, you have to put some respect on it. That is my name. I gave it to you.

“It is your job to take care of it. That is my name. It means something. Take cares of it. Our kids have to understand that. The world knows what his name is. It is H-A-L-I, one L, not two Ls. They know who he is now. When he walks, we know the world is looking at him and we know how the world is. They don’t care about the good part. They are always looking to dig, so I want to make sure my kids are ready.”

Haliburton said of his father’s support: “That is just our family dynamic. He has a lot of love for me. As his kid it’s hard not to be embarrassed about it sometimes, but it means the world. I think everyone loves to see a Black man loving on his child. It means the world for people to see and means the world to me as well.”

There are a lot of NBA stars 25 years old and younger in the league right now: Morant, Wenbanyama, Garland, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic, De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Maxey, Paolo Banchero and more. But is Haliburton ready to jump to the top of that list? Haliburton and the unproven Pacers could start that argument by beating James and the Lakers on Saturday in front of a pro-Lakers crowd on national television.

Regardless to what happens against LeBron and the Lakers, John Haliburton is confident of two things: His son has already arrived as an NBA superstar and that more success won’t change him.

“Tyrese is humble and very blessed,” John Haliburton said. “We give God the praise and the glory. Tyrese is nothing without the mercy of God. He knows how to handle it. He knows where he comes from. We ain’t better than nobody. Me and you are the same. Ain’t nothing between us. I understand he is in the NBA, but he is touchable.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.

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