Jamaal Tinsley is 35, not 85 and he's probably in better shape than 98 percent of the population.
He's not an old man, not by any means.
However, in the world of professional sports age is more than just a state of mind. It's a warning flag for potential employers, a barrier for athletes and an easy storyline for folks like me in the media.
Perhaps that's why there was a bit of excitement in the air at the sight of Tinsley making his way around the Zions Bank Basketball Center on Saturday, never once using a cane, a walker or a motorized scooter.
"Hey, there's Jamaal," someone said, and we all looked up.
Sure enough, there was the newest/oldest member of the Utah Jazz, chatting with Gordon Hayward underneath one of the baskets. Later he'd greet Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and several other members of the team, hugging them like they were long-lost friends.
"I told my agent, 'If Utah calls, give me a call. I want to go back,' " Tinsley explained.
Wisely, the Jazz called the agent, the agent called the player and the player did a fist pump.
After spending the last two seasons as a backup point guard with the Jazz, Tinsley became a free agent last summer. Nothing materialized right away so he kept working, kept playing ball and kept himself in top shape, waiting for the phone to ring.
He waited, waited, waited.
Finally, a few weeks ago the phone rang, shortly after Jazz rookie Trey Burke broke the index finger in his right hand. The Jazz needed a point guard, preferably one who knew the franchise, the players and coach Tyrone Corbin's playbook.
In other words, it was the perfect time to bring back the guy affectionately known as Uncle Jamaal.
"I've been through way tougher things in my life than (waiting for the phone to ring)," Tinsley said. "I'm blessed with another opportunity to play basketball. I'd do this for free. I've been running up and down the court the last four or five months without a job."
With Tinsley now on the roster the Jazz released five players on Saturday, including point guards Lester Hudson and Scott Machado.
Hudson and Machado are good young players and under different circumstances one of them might've made the regular-season roster. But with Burke out the Jazz didn't need young, they needed ... Tinsley.
"We needed a point guard, we needed a guy to organize where we are," Corbin said. "Nothing against the guys we had here, I thought they did a good job and they worked hard for us (but) we needed some more experience there."
"It's exciting," Hayward said. "He knows the offense, he's been in the league for a while. He'll try to find guys when they're open. He's a fun player to play with."
Having worked with Tinsley a little over the past couple of seasons, I developed an affinity for the soft-spoken Brooklyn native. Perhaps that's why his name was first I thought of when news broke that Burke would miss the start of the regular season.
I even tried creating a Twitter hashtag #FreeMelMel, referring to Tinsley's nickname Mel Mel The Abuser, a badge of honor he earned playing ball at Harlem's famed Rucker Park playground. Granted, my lighthearted campaign didn't actually take off, but then again it didn't need to in order to get Tinsley back in a Jazz uniform.
Given the circumstances -- they're already a very young team, now temporarily without their point guard of the future -- the Jazz absolutely made the right call. Tinsley's best days are behind him and he'll never again be a 35-40 minute-a-night player, but he brings something to the table, namely knowledge. Having him on one side and veteran John Lucas III on the other, Burke will certainly get an education.