Kyle Hightower

About Me

Sports writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Juggling words at The Associated Press covering the Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and all things New England. 

Recent work

Brown scores 36, Tatum-less Celtics outlast Wizards 130-121

Marcus Smart laughs when he thinks about how far Jaylen Brown has come since he was a rookie. There were moments during that 2016 season when he remembers a 19-year-old Brown at times recklessly driving 1-on-5 and throwing up wild shots at the rim. “His excuse was: ‘When everybody is telling me to slow down, the defense hears that, so I’m going to speed up.’ We’d be like, ‘No, that doesn’t make any sense,’” Smart recalled. “He’s using more of his grace now, to where he’s understanding that sometimes just be patient and let the game come to you instead of going and get it yourself.”

Celtics have NBA's best record despite offseason strife

The Celtics entered the season with a built-in reason to underachieve. Ime Udoka, the man who had changed so much about their culture and led them to the NBA Finals as a first-year coach last season, was given a yearlong suspension prior to training camp for having an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the organization. But nearly a quarter into its schedule, Boston has emerged from that preseason cloud with an NBA-best 13-4 record and looks like a team that’s still capable of capitalizing on its championship window.

Pats QB Jones believes he can salvage rough start to Year 2

As a rookie NFL quarterback, Mac Jones approached nearly everything he did last season like a sponge. The formula was uncomplicated: Take in the information, concepts, plays, and instructions as presented, then execute as asked. It helped him set the standard among the league’s first-year signal callers, as he led the 2021 QB class in both yards passing (3,801) and touchdowns (22). It earned him a Pro Bowl selection and raised expectations for him and a franchise hoping to have finally found the guy to build around post-Tom Brady. If only it were that easy.

Judge homers twice to reach 57, Yanks beat Sox 7-6 in 10

It’s a rare thing for a Red Sox fan to cheer for a member of the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge caused some of Boston’s faithful to make an exception on his latest visit to Fenway Park Judge hit his major league-leading 56th and 57th home runs, Gleyber Torres had a go-ahead three-run double in the 10th inning and the Yankees held on to beat the Red Sox 7-6 on Tuesday night. Playing in New York’s 142nd game, the Yankees slugger’s second drive of the night brought fans from both sides of the rivalry to their feet in applause as he moved four from tying the American League home run record Roger Maris set with the Yankees in 1961. “(Red Sox fans) were wearing me out on deck, I don’t know if they were cheering or not,” Judge said. “They were wearing me out. But nah, it’s all of baseball fans. Just fans all over. Red Sox, Yankees — it doesn’t matter. They came here to see a good game and to see a show. Both teams I think put on a good show for them.”

Navigating NFL without an agent remains tricky proposition

Lamar Jackson was still wearing his uniform when he walked into his postgame news conference minutes after the Baltimore Ravens earned a season-opening win over the New York Jets on Sunday. He was coming off a three-touchdown game that had provided the bulk of Baltimore’s points during its 24-9 victory. But those weren’t the only numbers he was asked about. It didn’t take long for Jackson’s contract to become a topic, with questions about whether it was true he had turned down a $250 million contract extension offer from the Ravens. “Fully guaranteed? No, there’s no truth to that,” Jackson said with a smile before his barely two-minute-old news conference was abruptly ended by the Ravens’ public relations staff. Welcome to NFL life negotiating without an agent, a risk vs. reward proposition that requires a balancing act few remain willing to take on.

NBA laid key foundation during 1960s amid off-court chaos

Sam Jones remembers the NBA landscape in the 1960s being only marginally different from what he had experienced growing up in America’s segregated South. “There was a quota for Blacks when I came in 1957. There were only two players on each team that were African-Americans,” recalled Jones, a member of 10 Boston championship teams, including the eight consecutive titles the Celtics won from 1958-66. The 1960s was the decade Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry took flight and the NBA’s second dynasty reigned on the Boston Garden’s parquet court. It was also a time of ongoing struggle and crisis across America, when the country was forever altered on a “Bloody Sunday,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream and Black athletes raised their fists and voices in hopes of holding America to its creed. In its infancy just 10 years prior, the NBA took its first meaningful strides in the 60s, growing from the little league that could barely get attention, to laying the framework it still stands on today — a place where athletes can be more than entertainment and use their influential platform to effect change.

Tatum's Time: Celtics' star vows to bounce back in Finals

Jayson Tatum knows he has taken his game to a new level in his fifth NBA season, pushing his way into the league’s top echelon of playmakers as the Boston Celtics’ go-to scorer. The three-time All-Star also knows at times he hasn’t been good enough against the Golden State Warriors during the NBA Finals and must find a way to elevate his play if he hopes to help Boston capture the franchise’s 18th championship. He doesn’t mind the spotlight, or the burden that comes with it.

Overlooked no more, Brown shines for Celtics in Finals

There was a time when the narrative surrounding Jaylen Brown was that he was a redundant player on a Celtics team shaping its identity around budding superstar Jayson Tatum. Though he was a recent All-Star on a team packed with young, homegrown talent, Brown was considered by outsiders to be a potential trade chip Boston could use to adjust a roster that didn’t get past the conference finals during his first five seasons. Six months and a run to the NBA Finals later, Mr. Expendable is suddenly Mr. Indispensable as the Celtics pursue their 18th championship.

Ime's way: Celtics' Finals run a product of coach's vision

The Boston Celtics’ transition from a team that went from sitting just outside the top tier of the Eastern Conference to being four wins away from the franchise’s 18th championship began the moment Ime Udoka grasped the microphone at his introductory news conference last June. Flanked by the Celtics’ co-owners and new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, the first-time coach was asked what kind of stamp he hoped to put on his new team. A smile on his face, Udoka didn’t hesitate to point out a shortcoming of his predecessor and new boss.

Sticking to blueprint has keyed Celtics' 2nd half turnaround

When the Celtics slumped off the Madison Square Garden court following a buzzer-beating loss to the New York Knicks on Jan. 6, they were a team without direction. The setback dropped the Celtics to 18-21 and into 11th place in the Eastern Conference. It also came on a night in which they had given up a 25-point lead – the fifth time since the start of the season they had surrendered an advantage of 19 or more points. It felt like the preamble to a lost year following the franchise’s offseason makeover that included a transition from Brad Stevens to rookie head coach Ime Udoka. It turns out that game may have been the inflection point the Celtics needed to turn things around.

Fortunate Friars living in moment with top seed Kansas next

Providence coach Ed Cooley heard all the chatter following his team entering the NCAA Tournament. It helped create a narrative about the Friars: that despite earning 25 victories and winning a Big East regular-season championship, they had simply been more lucky than good because of an 11-2 record in games decided by five points or less. “The narrative on doubt and luck and this and that, yeah, it plays on you,” Cooley said. “The players will come in the locker room and talk about it, and I tongue-in-cheek it a little bit, but, you know, you got some older guys out there just willing to try to compete for respect. I don’t have to be liked, but I’ll be damned if you’re not going to respect me.”

Transgender swimmers bring spotlight to Ivy championship

There isn’t much to indicate anything other than a typical college swim meet is taking place this week at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool. No demonstrations or protests outside the building. But there is evidence of the discussion surrounding the sport during the past year. An “8 Against Hate” sign is displayed above the pool between flags representing each of the schools competing in the Ivy League women’s swimming championship. Athletes from several schools also wore shirts featuring the statement. There’s also the public address announcement made before every session that reminds spectators the conference is committed to putting on an event “free of racist, homophobic or transphobic discrimination.” For Lia Thomas and Iszac Henig, it’s an example of the environment that has surrounded both for more than a year as they’ve sought to showcase their talents and compete at the sport’s highest level.

Transgender Penn swimmer Thomas ends Ivy meet with 3rd title

Lia Thomas ended an intense week of scrutiny with a hug. Seconds after edging Yale’s Iszac Henig to win the 100-meter freestyle title at the Ivy League championships Saturday, Thomas stepped out of the pool and walked to the back of the deck. After taking a moment to towel off, the transgender swimmer for Penn turned to her right and embraced Henig, a transgender man who swims for Yale’s women’s team. The matchup was the culmination of strong championship performances by both athletes, who’ve dealt this week with increased media coverage of their personal stories as part of an ongoing national conversation about the rules that govern the participation of transgender athletes in college athletics.
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