When Bonnie Huestis was 19, her only brother died in a car accident. Two years earlier, both her parents had suffered the same unfortunate fate.
There were no more males in her family with the surname of Huestis. Sadly, it seemed likely to stay that way.
But flash-forward about four decades, and the Huestis surname is alive and well, hoping to make its mark in Oklahoma City.
On Thursday night, the Thunder drafted Josh Huestis late in the first round. On Friday, they introduced the rookie out of Stanford, with Sam Presti saying that the selection was as much about the person as the player. An examination of his unique background and a closer look at the lady who became his driving force paints a clearer picture.
When Josh was just 32 hours old, he was handed over to Bonnie. Separated and facing financial constraints, his birth parents had him at a young age and were forced to put him up for adoption.
Bonnie was the perfect fit. After recently discovering she was physically unable to have children, she had been exploring this route. After some researching, she hashed out the details with Sutton Lindsay, Josh’s birth mother, and flew down to the Houston area to meet her new son.
“She tells me the story of when she first found out she couldn’t have children on her own, how it was this devastating event to her,” Josh recalls. “But she prayed on it and it became clear she should adopt and she talks about how it was meant to be. And I’m a believer that there’s no such thing as coincidences.”
Bonnie brought Josh back to Great Falls, Montana, to the family’s home out in the country, where they owned a ton of land and a variety of animals, including horses. As his birth parents had hoped — “When they saw where we lived, they were like, yeah, this will be a good place,” Bonnie said — it served as the perfect setting for him to grow up.
And Bonnie and her husband, Gary Walsh, fostered the perfect environment. To both Josh and his younger sister — Kava, whom they adopted a year later — Bonnie and Gary were supportive and encouraging.
“Countless hours of driving me to basketball tournaments, helping me with homework, helping me in the gym,” Josh said. “I could never repay them for that. They’ve made me who I am today.”
And because of her loving ways, when Bonnie came to Josh at a young age to officially finalize what his last name would be, it was a no-brainer. He wanted it to be the same as his mother’s — Huestis.
“She’s raised me from the beginning,” Josh said. “And having her last name is very important to her. It’s just who I am. My last name has become my identity. It was an easy decision to make sure that stayed as my last name.”
“I’m proud of that,” Bonnie added.
But maybe the biggest thing Bonnie did, her most influential and selfless parenting act, was make sure Josh remained aware and in contact with his birth family.
Often in adoption cases, secrets are kept or pasts are forgotten. But from the beginning, Bonnie felt it imperative that Josh knew exactly who he was and where he came from.
When he was a young boy, every nine months or so she’d fly him down to Houston to see his birth mother. She made sure he stayed close to his birth father, Poncho Hodges, who lives in Los Angeles. She got the information for his blood brother, Christian Dean, who was adopted by a family in Northern California, and reached out to foster a relationship.
To this day, Josh and Christian remain incredibly close. While Josh played at Stanford, Christian was a soccer star up the road at Cal. He was selected third overall in the most recent MLS Draft. But before he rose to soccer stardom, when he was questioning the next steps of his athletic career during his junior year in high school, Christian moved to Montana to live with Josh and the Huestis family for a semester. He credits it as the time his love for soccer was reinvigorated.
“I’m so thankful to her for that,” Josh said of Bonnie’s willingness to embrace his blood family. “Because there’s stories out there of adoptions that are closed and you don’t know either side of the birth families. But I’m super fortunate and blessed that my Mom was kind enough to let both my birth parents in … I’m so thankful to her that she was able to put her own pride to the side and allow other families in and allow other families to experience my life.”
“It’s very important to me,” Bonnie said. “I’m a therapist … I told him he’s lucky. He has two moms, two dads, all sorts of people that are important to him. We’re big about family, extended family.”
In the past month, all of Bonnie’s hard parenting work has paid off in some amazing ways. On June 15, she watched the son she was never supposed to have graduate from one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
“Wow, that’s my son out there with a degree from Stanford University,” Bonnie said of her emotions on that day. “Never in my life did I dream of that.”
Then, 11 days later, she sat with him at a Montana draft party and watched the Huestis name flash up as a first-round NBA pick.
And at both those events, she gladly shared the familial spotlight with all of Josh’s relatives. But there’s no question she was the steady support system that made it all possible.
“She’s been my everything my whole life,” Josh said. “She’s raised me from the time I was a day old until now. I’m so thankful for her for her for everything she’s done for me. She’s given me everything I’ve ever asked for and supported me.”