‘Just perspective,’ Tum Tum speaks of his basketball, faith, life
Former Spartan Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. did not have the same path of playing basketball compared to his teammates.
After moving from his home in Nassau, Bahamas when he was only 13 years old, he continued his new passion on a path that he said he knew God had made for him.
The former three-year captain gave a motivational speech to Okemos High School, hosted by the Okemos Fellowship of Christian Athletes club, or FCA, in response to the second suicide in the school’s community.
“They reached out to me during the season, but I couldn’t do it,” Nairn said. “I didn’t have the time to do it. After the season, I wanted to make sure I get out and do it. I felt like God was leading me to do it.”
Okemos High School student and senior leader of FCA Gerald Sambaer met with the former Spartan guard during the season to ask him speak during their club meeting, to motivate his community.
Volunteer Kelle Donnelly noted students wanted Nairn to speak at one of their meetings and used their resources to help put the event together. Eight days before the actual event, Nairn confirmed he could speak in front of the community after the death of a former student. Donnelly said she knows this was God’s plan.
“This is perfect confirmation for us that this is when it was supposed to be and that was his story he was supposed to tell and everyone that’s here is suppose to be here to listen,” she said.
Nairn said growing up, he never was a highly religious person.
But after he moved to Florida to play basketball, he found out the school was located in a strip mall and they had no facilities to play basketball in. He began to look toward scriptures and put his faith in God.
Nairn attended a tournament back in the Bahamas, where American high school and college basketball coaches watched athletes play against each other in a recruiting process.
This is where he met his high school basketball coach from Sunrise Christian Academy, which is located in Wichita, Kansas.
During his senior year of high school, he took 11 classes to graduate on time and met with head coach Tom Izzo. He said he chose to go to MSU because it is the place God wanted him to be.
“I think he really did a good job of giving his story and talking about all of the hardships he went through, and he was saying that God put him through these things to put him in a situation he is now to succeed because God already knew what was going to happen down the road,” Sambaer said.
When Nairn first met Izzo, he promised him he would help the team win a National Championship during his four-year career. He made it as far as the Final Four in 2015, but fell to Duke, 81-61.
Nairn said there are more things in life than winning a National Championship in basketball.
“Just perspective,” Nairn said. “Sometimes in life we make these little things more important than the things that really matter, and I just wanted to help them understand it’s a lot more things that’s going on in life than losing a basketball game.”
Donnelly knew the former student as her neighbor and from multiple FCA meetings before the student’s death.
She said she sat there and wondered why it happened and almost thought about not attending the funeral service because she could not face what happened.
After the services, she said she felt she’s grown stronger and wants to change the community even more. She said she felt inspired during Nairn’s speech.
“That’s kind of like that boost that we needed,” Donnelly said. “It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty on what’s going on around us. I’m choosing to say that it’s better and we have to inspire more, we cannot just accept this. This isn’t acceptable. We have to call God into these vacant places that he is missing.”
Donnelly acknowledged she felt the Holy Spirit through Nairn as he spoke and noticed the reaction of the crowd on how they took the experience in.
One of the moments that stuck out for Sambaer happened before Nairn came to speak at his high school.
“I know one thing that Tum Tum said that was cool when I first met with him was that he never turns down an opportunity to help somebody else,” Sambaer said. “I think that’s how God made that happen and how he orchestrated this thing where we would reach out to him and him obviously not turning this down impacted a lot of people today.”
MSU did not cross Nairn's mind before his recruitment process, but he now thanks God for the path he created for him to get to where he is today.
“I think God always prepared you for what he’s promised you,” Nairn said. “I just think everything that I went through is to help me get to this point now, and I’m thankful that he did it.”