Byron Mullens will spend Christmas Day traveling, jetting from Tulsa to Reno, Nev., his 11 teammates on the D-League’s 66ers the closest he’ll get to family on Friday.
And it’ll be the best Christmas of the Thunder rookie’s 20-year life. Mullens’ memories of Christmas mornings aren’t as merry as most. Seasonal snow stuffed the streets of Mullens’ old neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, but his family never awoke to gobs of gifts bundled below a tall, tailored tree. His father, Paul, ducked in and out on the family and decided he’d sit most Christmases out. His mother, Barbara, left alone with six children, couldn’t afford to make Christmas Day dreamy. "I didn’t really have nothing,” Mullens said of his Christmas gifts. Mullens tried to offer his favorite memories. He struggled, taking less time than an eight-second count to concede there were few. The best Mullens could cite was seeing his family together, seeing them safe. Those moments weren’t promised and were far from plenty. "It was kind of hard for my family to be together because all of my brothers were in and out of jail,” Mullens remembered. "One year, I remember my brother just went to jail a few days before Christmas.” Mullens can now take solace in knowing that his home life is better. It’s why he can still be content traveling this Christmas for Saturday’s showdown between the 66ers and the Bighorns, a game in which he isn’t likely to even play because of a sprained ankle. Mullens, with a first-year salary of $1.12 million as the 24th overall pick, takes pride in knowing he can now provide his family things it never had, a Christmas it never had.