On the surface, Sunday’s One State, One Spirit Classic between Missouri and Missouri Southern in Joplin, Missouri, looked a lot like an exhibition basketball game.
The coaches stomped around the sidelines in protest of the officiating. The players dove on the floor, drew charges, dished out assists and threw down a few dunks. But there was something different about this event. The atmosphere was festive, but the emotion of the Joplin tornado in May still lingered. When the public address announcer called for a moment of silence for the victims, nobody moved an inch. This wasn’t a detached gesture. Not here. Not inside the Legett and Platt Athletic Center, which sat thousands of people who lost their homes, businesses and loved ones last spring.
Preseason #25 Missouri won by 46 points, but nobody cared. Not even the Tigers. All eyes were on the Lions, the tornado victims, and, most importantly, the relief effort. As both MU guard Marcus Denmon and coach Frank Haith mentioned after the game, most of the crowd cheered on every basket— by both teams. The atmosphere was festive, upbeat and positive, a stark contrast to the solemn aftermath of the tornado.