The tackle would have been expected in football. In basketball, it was a surprising hit that sent the opponent flying.
Former NBA player Leon Powe was high school basketball teammates with Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who is competing in Super Bowl XLIX. Lynch, listed currently at 5-11, 215 pounds, was Powe’s backup center/power forward at Oakland Technical. Though “short and stocky,” as Powe described, he exuded jaw-dropping strength as a teenager.
“He told me anyone that fouled me, just let him know,” Powe, a community ambassador for the Boston Celtics, told Basketball Insiders. “He’d go in and take care of it. That’s what he did.”
The two met prior to junior high school, years before Lynch became a Super Bowl winner and Pro Bowler. Powe recalled one particular game in which Lynch went full force on the court. Powe had been on the receiving end of a hard foul and had to come off the floor because he wanted to retaliate. Lynch saw the play unfold and went on the hunt.
“Marshawn came to me. He said, ‘I got you,'” said Powe. “The following play, the guy got a fast break. He jumped and Marshawn ran out of nowhere — he was fast as lightening, strong. He just, like, speared the guy, tackled him into the stands. He got a flagrant.
“I pulled Marshawn to the side and said, ‘You can’t do that. That’s illegal. You’ll get ejected and kicked out for that. I just wanted you to touch him up a little bit.’ He just laughed, ‘That’s what I do.’ That’s all that he said.”
Lynch wasn’t an offensive basketball player. Defensively, he excelled. He had a high vertical leap and was able to crash the boards with the bigs. Once he grabbed a rebound, Powe pointed out, no one could take the ball away from him.
Thinking in terms of today’s NBA players, Powe compared Lynch’s athletic skills to the quickness and strength of 6-8, 250-pound LeBron James.
“He was just like a bull,” said Powe.
Since their days at Oakland Tech, both athletes went on to win championships — Powe with the Celtics in 2008, Lynch with the Seahawks last season. Lynch will defend the title on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
He has been in the headlines leading up to the Super Bowl for voicing his disinterest in speaking to reporters, repeating the phrase “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” during media day. Powe noted Lynch once spoke for 30 minutes in a documentary about Powe’s life. It’s talking about himself that he doesn’t prefer.
“With his friends, he’s open,” said Powe. “I thinks where he was growing up, football should be handled on the field. Let his play do his talking, that’s the motto he goes by. But his family and friends, he talks to everybody.”
With one Super Bowl under his belt, Powe believes Lynch has what it takes to win many more. The teenager who sent an opponent into the stands, the one who Powe also watched score touchdowns while carrying defenders on his back, showed early on he had the drive and determination to achieve athletic excellence.
“When you grow up in Oakland, you have that mentality that you aren’t going to let anything stop you. He has that,” said Powe. “Where he comes from, it was hard. When he got out there on the field it was like his sanctuary. He would leave it out there all the time, put his best foot forward and didn’t think anything could stop him.”
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