The story of Sam Farkas’ tragic death in Miami Beach felt a little too familiar to Justise Winslow. Farkas, 15, returned home to his family’s eighth-story condominium in Miami Beach on Tuesday to find he was locked out. He went up to a neighbor’s on the ninth floor and tried to climb down from the neighbor’s balcony to his, but fell to his death the day before his 16th birthday.
Winslow has now lived in Miami-Dade County since 2015, when the Miami Heat drafted the point forward with the No. 10 pick of the NBA Draft. When someone showed Winslow the story about Farkas’ death, the climbing from balcony to balcony felt familiar to someone who’s lived in the area for almost half a decade now.
“I heard about it and it’s something I think a lot of people do, especially with the amount of apartments in Miami,” Winslow said in the locker room after the Heat’s 113-99 win against the Boston Celtics on Thursday in Miami. “I know people personally that have done it and looking back at it probably shouldn’t have let them do it or that sort of thing, so it’s just a tough situation, especially for that family.”
Before taking the floor at AmericanAirlines Arena, Winslow decided to do something to simultaneously memorialize Farkas and raise awareness for what led to his death. On the outside of his right shoe and the heel of his left, Winslow wrote in white marker on his black shoes, “RIP Sammy Farkas.”
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“It really wasn’t about any type of media attention or anything like that,” Winslow said. “I just wanted him to be part of this season, this moment for me. I figured he was probably a Heat fan. Once people kind of started to find out about it, I had a lot of people reach out — people that go to school with him, that sort of thing — so try to go and spread some good energy to them, and his family as well, but it’s just something super unfortunate. And I just want to help the family and community any way I can.”
With Farkas’ name on his feet, Winslow put together another strong performance to help Miami (20-20) secure a win on national television. The forward finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and a career-high 11 assists in 32 minutes.
Winslow still hasn’t made contact with the family, but he’ll be thinking about Farkas as the season goes on.
“It was good to play for something bigger than myself,” Winslow said, “and bigger than this ballclub tonight.”