Peyton Siva saved his father’s life at age 13. Saving Louisville’s season was a bit easier.
by Kels Dayton / @Roundball_Daily
As the sun fades into the Bayou sky on Saturday evening, Louisville’s Peyton Siva Jr will be in a place most of us could never imagine.
Front and center in the New Orleans Superdome. The bright lights illuminating him and his teammates in front of 72,000 delirious fans and millions more watching on television. Taking the court in the biggest game of his life, against his school’s most heated rival, with everything at stake.
Only… at 21 years old, Siva will understand that everything isn’t at stake. Because he’s already been there when it was.
Thirteen years old. Behind the wheel of his older brother’s Dodge; driving through the darkest alleys and shadiest streets of Seattle.
Searching for his father.
Peyton Siva Sr had been missing for days, lost in a whirling torrent of drinking, drugs and gang life that had finally reached its crest. He was going to take his own life.
His son had already been through plenty of nights without his father before, but this one was different. This wasn’t like those other times when Peyton Jr sat alone at home with his mother; his dad, older brother and sister all locked up.
The youngest of three children somehow sensed that his father’s despair had reached its climax. Something had to be done.
So Peyton Jr implored his mother for any clues on his father’s whereabouts, and at an age when most children would be finishing their algebra homework or diving into the next round of Call of Duty, he set out into the night to find his father.
“Any kid would have done it,” Siva Jr explained to reporters after practice at the NCAA Tournament in Portland, OR. “There’s nothing spectacular about it. I was just doing what I could to help.”
His father certainly needed him. After years of gang life, drugs, violence, and stints in and out of jail, Peyton Sr had hit rock bottom. He had begun his wayward journey shortly after his own father had passed away at the age of 52. Siva Sr had spent the majority of his children’s lives as an absent father.
“I was dealing with a lot of issues from my upbringing,” Siva Sr told AOL’s Lisa Olson. “With [my father] gone, I was in a world where I didn’t care. I had all the reasons to care, but I just didn’t have the tools.”
So he decided on that fateful night in 2003 that he had enough. He had witnessed murders and been shot himself in the past, and was ready to end the painful cycle of gang life on his own terms.
“I was drinking, using [drugs], basically out of my mind at that time,” Siva Sr said. “I had a gun, ready to use. A whole bunch of things were going through my head… I couldn’t think.”
Imagine the thoughts that must have been running through Siva Sr’s mind when he watched as his 13-year-old son pulled up alongside him on a rain-soaked Seattle street.
“What are you doing here?!” he asked.
“I came to pick you up, dad.”
Siva Sr said he couldn’t do anything but jump in the car. In his disconsolate, drugged-out state, he needed to listen to what his son had to say.
“I found him and y’know, he was really depressed,” Peyton Jr told CBS Sports Network in an interview earlier this year. “He said he didn’t want to live anymore and I was just like, That’s stupid. That’s being selfish.”
“Why would you want to take your life when you have other people around you that care about you?” Siva Jr said. “You’re not the only person in the world, like, stop thinking about yourself.”
“Dad, I know you love me and I know you’d do anything to be there for me,” the young Siva told his father.
“I really need you right now.”
Siva Sr recalled his son saying that he would do anything, get good grades, go to church, whatever it took to get his father to turn his life around.
“I sat there, and we just cried our tears out; our eyes out.” Siva Sr said. “He saved me.”
The father tossed his gun into a garbage can and laid back his head, tears streaming down his face as his son drove him home.
“I should have been dead,” he told AOL’s Olson.
“But that was my turnaround, knowing my son had so much heart that he came to find me. Here he is, 13 years old, he don’t even have a driver’s license,” he said.
“That’s my love,” Siva Sr said before emotion got the best of him in another interview with CN2′s Chip Cosby.
And now, as Peyton Jr leads the Louisville Cardinals on one of the most improbable NCAA Tournament runs in school history, his father can reflect on the remarkable redemption the two of them have shared.
“He never gave up on me, and I’m not giving up, Pey-Pey, I’m not giving up.” Siva Sr said.
Peyton Jr is now a junior at Louisville, and after a career filled with injuries and at times inconsistent play, he has finally reached the potential that made him a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.
The 6-0, 180-pound guard has averaged 11.4 points and 6.4 assists per game in leading the Cardinals to eight straight wins, a Big East championship, and now a trip to the Final Four.
“He’s our leader,” senior guard Kyle Kuric told the New York Times. “He sets the mindset for the rest of us to follow.”
“He’s our most important player,” said head coach Rick Pitino. “He’s been a leader on this team since day one, and that’s part of the reason why I say that I’m as happy for this group of players getting to the Final Four as I have been in my entire career.”
“I appreciate all the time my dad not pulling the trigger and putting the gun back,” Siva Jr said. “Because I don’t know where I would be, honestly.”
“I’m just grateful for him being here. He’s here by the grace of God.”