Jamaica Olympic Association President Christopher Samuda signs the condolence book at the entrance to National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew before the start of the funeral for former national basketballer Marland Nattie on Saturday, December 3, 2023.

Nattie epitomised selfless service to Jamaica basketball

Marland Nattie, former national basketball player, coach and administrator, was laid to rest last Saturday after a moving service celebrating his life at National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew.

The flood of tributes paid to the Kingston College (KC) old boy, who passed on October 8 at age 63, all hailed him as a selfless, dedicated servant of the sport who shared his passion, knowledge and love for basketball not only in Jamaica but other Caribbean jurisdictions.

Sport Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange described Nattie as a man with a heart of gold who was devoted to relatives and friends alike.

“Here was a man who bought his mother a house to move her from the depressed circumstances in which she was living while he was still paying rent. Here was a man who mortgaged his own house at one time to provide funds needed to send young basketballers — male and female — to competitions abroad so that they could gain the exposure,” Grange said in her tribute.

“He was a disciplinarian who stood for integrity, but he was kind. He had one child, his daughter Coleen, but he strived to raise a village. The young people around him called him ‘daddy’. He encouraged Coleen to always help others. He lived by the ancient African word, Ubuntu, which means ‘humanity to others’. It reminds us that ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’,” she said.

His passing, Grange said, has robbed Jamaica of a giant in the sport of basketball, who gave his all.

“We benefited from his lifetime love and affinity for basketball which saw him playing the sport in high school and for Jamaica as well as coaching at the community, club, and national levels and making his contribution as administrator,” she said.

Grange also pointed out that Nattie, in addition to serving as Jamaica Basketball Association (JABA) president on more than one occasion, was vice-president at the time of his passing, and most recently was a vice-president in charge of development at the Caribbean Basketball Confederation.

Sport Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange (left) offers words of comfort to Oberon Pitterson-Nattie, wife of former national basketball player and president of Jamaica Basketball Association Marland Nattie, at his funeral service inside National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew on Saturday, December 3, 2023.

“He touched the lives of so many people with his kindness and generosity. Words cannot express how much we will miss him. It is said that when someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure…Nattie, your life was truly a blessing, your memory a real treasure.

“As minister of sport, and on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, I must say thanks to Marland Washington Nattie for his herculean work to take the sport of basketball to another level, not just in Jamaica but in the region,” Grange said.

Jamaica Olympic Association President Christopher Samuda, in his printed tribute, said Nattie’s life in the sport was marked by a commitment to inspiring excellence, an insatiable appetite for service which went above and beyond the trappings of the office, and an unquenchable thirst to transform the court into a wellspring of ambition.

“In a world of turnovers Marland infused in the bloodstream of the sport a marksman’s character and instilled an inclusive culture which afforded opportunities to many who otherwise would have been disenfranchised,” Samuda added.

Former Netball Jamaica and Americas Netball President Marva Bernard remembered Nattie as a loyal friend.

Pointing out that the politics of sports can be cruel, Bernard invoked the KC motto — ‘The brave may fall but never yield’ — saying, “Marland was brave enough not to yield to the politics of sport that pitted friends against each other, and so, over time, bravely embraced me as a friend and colleague.”

She said Nattie was “a resource person” for her during the years she served as president of Americas Netball. “He had all the answers I wanted to compare regional governance practices for basketball and netball,” Bernard said.

“Marland was about service, all about service… to his sport and the people who played it. It was never about his resume [as he] continued to serve long after he was the president,” she said.

Bernard shared that former Sports Development Foundation (SDF) Chairman David Mais, who had interacted with Nattie on a basketball programme in Majesty Gardens, found him to be efficient and dependable.

She said Mais described Nattie as “the centre of excellence in western St Andrew for basketball”.

Bernard also told the service that former SDF General Manager Denzil Wilks commented that Nattie lived for basketball and represented his school, club, and country with distinction. However, “His crowning glory is the give-back as a coach, administrator, and community development person.”

The tribute also included a reflection from Sasher-Gaye Henry, former national netballer, who described Nattie as her “loyal soldier, loyal coach, friend, confidante and mentor”.

She said Nattie was her “go-to person” for issues with which she battled as she could always depend on him to give her the best advice.

Added Bernard: “The sport of basketball has lost a true servant, and hopefully they can find somebody who will replace him and serve with this level of distinction.”

Current national netball player Shamera Sterling, who joined Bernard at the podium, described Nattie as a “very selfless person” who always kept in touch with her while she was playing in the Australian league.

“He told me if I don’t win the league I must not come back to Jamaica. Well, I am back because I won the league,” she said, evoking laughter.

“I’ll miss you, Mr Nattie. We won the league and I hope you’re very proud of what I did and I am proud that you crossed paths with me,” said Sterling who plays for Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Cedar Grove Academy technical director of sports Kennoy Douglas said Nattie was focused not only on coaching but on decency, order and discipline.

“Coaching, for him, was about the sport, not economics,” Douglas said with members of the academy’s basketball team in full gear standing with him.

“My greatest regret is that he did not see our first match,” he said.

“You have lost a giant,” Douglas said to Nattie’s family as he asked them to celebrate his legacy.

In his printed tribute, KC Old Boys Association President Richard Lindsay remembered Nattie as a ferocious and unstoppable basketball player whose light shone not only for KC but for Jamaica.

“A personality filled with empathy, morality, philanthropy, bravery and one that was never yielding, you epitomised the Fortis spirit. Our founding father, Bishop Gibson, would be very proud,” Lindsay said.

-Jamaica Observer