Thomas Robinson's first game since burying his mother on Thursday afternoon included a compassionate reception from the Kansas crowd, a heartwarming embrace from a rival player and a callous technical foul from a unsympathetic referee.
With five minutes remaining in Kansas' 90-66 rout of Kansas State, Robinson caught a pass from guard Josh Selby, threw down an emphatic two-handed slam and let out some emotion by slapping the backboard on the way down. That gesture earned Robinson a technical foul, the correct call by the letter of the law but the wrong one based on any other measure of human decency.
Everyone besides the referees seemed to appreciate the courage Robinson displayed playing just eight days after the death of his mother, Lisa Robinson, and less than a month after both his grandmother and grandfather also passed away. The 6-foot-9 sophomore scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and also grabbed nine rebounds, often feeding off the applause from a wildly supportive crowd.
The entire crowd of 16,300 stood and roared when Robinson checked into the game for the first time at the 16:47 mark of the first half and when he left for the last time in the final minute of the second half.
Some students wore Robinson's jersey. Others waved homemade signs with messages such as "Here's to you Mrs. Robinson" and "Zero is my Hero." They all chanted "T-Rob" whenever he made a big play, which happened frequently throughout the lopsided second half.
Even the Kansas State players weren't blind to the poignancy of the moment. Senior Jacob Pullen offered Robinson a big hug before checking out with 1:04 to go in the game, an especially classy gesture when you consider the Wildcats trailed by 25 points at the time.
When Robinson left the game to one final ovation, he acknowledged the crowd with a turn and wave. It was a touching gesture from a kid who has endured the most trying month imaginable.