Kyle Hightower

About Me

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

Recent work

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.

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.

Lakers, Nets find riding Big 3 to championship not so easy

Looking back on it, Kevin Garnett was concerned it wouldn’t all work out. It was 2007 and Garnett, coming off his 10th All-Star selection, had just been dealt to the Celtics as the final piece of an offseason shakeup in Boston that paired him with future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The expectation was a championship or bust for that group. Anything else would be a failure. It wasn’t — and isn’t — a new scenario.

Brady bids football adieu, thanks everyone — except Patriots

The greatness of Tom Brady’s NFL career can’t be exaggerated. He took the New England Patriots to the upper echelon of the league during his 20-year run with the team, filling the franchise’s trophy case with six Lombardi trophies while cementing his own status as possibly the game’s all-time greatest player. He remained a beloved son in New England even after he departed for Tampa Bay following the 2019 season, promptly won his seventh ring with the Buccaneers and then returned the following year to defeat his former team. But Brady’s failure to include even a single mention of the Patriots or their fans in his lengthy retirement announcement on Tuesday was met with a chilly reception that’s left many perplexed about one of the region’s most beloved sports figures.

NHL pioneer O'Ree 'overwhelmed' as No. 22 raised to rafters

Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 now has a permanent home in Boston’s TD Garden. The first Black player to appear in an NHL game, O’Ree became the 12th player in franchise history to have his number retired prior to the Bruins’ matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. The honor came 64 years to the day after he became the league’s first Black player on Jan. 18, 1958, when he suited up against the Montreal Canadiens. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category in 2018. “It was a memorable night,” O’Ree said. “I’m just thrilled and overwhelmed.”

Astros scramble after pitchers pounded for 25 runs by Boston

Houston’s pitching staff will need to adjust quickly after allowing 25 runs and 32 hits to Boston in the first three games of the AL Championship Series, a barrage that made the loss of injured Lance McCullers Jr. seem acute. Kyle Schwarber hit Boston’s third grand slam in an 11-inning span, a drive off starter José Urquidy as part of a six-run second inning in Monday night’s 12-3 rout that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead. Boston hit four home runs, raising its total to nine off Astros pitching, which has a 7.96 ERA. “It’s kind of like Groundhog Day, a reoccurring nightmare where you hope to get some innings out of these guys,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

Prescott TD pass lifts Cowboys to 35-29 OT win over Pats

Dak Prescott wasn’t going to let anything prevent him from enjoying the moment. While his team celebrated around him after he threw 35-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb in overtime to beat the New Patriots 35-29 Sunday, the Cowboys quarterback felt pain in his right calf. It wasn’t the perfect ending, but he was willing to accept it after he helped Dallas survive a wild finish and earn its first victory over Bill Belichick’s Patriots. “Just came down funny. Didn’t like what I felt,” said Prescott, who wore a walking boot to his postgame news conference. “Life keeps throwing punches and I’m gonna keep throwing them back. ... But I’ll be fine. I’ll promise you that.”

Walk it off: Red Sox eliminate Rays 6-5 with late sac fly

Back in raucous Fenway Park for postseason baseball a year after a last-place finish, the Boston Red Sox are getting the bounces, knocking big hits in bunches and even benefiting from a little small ball. Hardly a perfect team, even by their own estimation, Alex Cora and the wild-card Red Sox are four wins from a return to the World Series anyway. Kiké Hernández delivered Boston’s second straight walk-off win, scoring pinch-runner Danny Santana with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to send the Red Sox to the AL Championship Series with a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.

Patriots cut Cam Newton, clearing way for Mac Jones to start

The Mac Jones era in New England has begun. The Patriots released Cam Newton on Tuesday, clearing the way for the rookie to open the season as New England’s quarterback. Newton’s release came hours before NFL teams had to reduce their rosters to 53 players and brings an abrupt end to his time in New England. Newton went 7-8 as the starter in the Patriots’ first season since Tom Brady departed and signed with Tampa Bay. New England finished 7-9 for the year.

From 6 a.m. texts to criticism, Pats' Jones taking it all in

One thing rookie quarterback Mac Jones has learned during his infant New England Patriots career is that no matter the situation, his coaches want to see confidence in everything he does on the field. “One of the first things we talk about is being loud and confident,” Jones said. “If you know what to do, just be loud. And, if you don’t know what to do, be loud.” It’s been a balancing act as he walks the delicate line of trying to learn at a rapid pace and improve while also avoiding mistakes.
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