On the court the NBA provides copious amounts of entertainment for millions of fans across the globe. But off the court, the Association is making a positive impact in peoples’ lives too. The NBA Cares initiative attempts to address major social issues such as education, health, and the general well being of children around the world. According to the league’s website, NBA Cares has raised over $205 million for charity, provided over 2 million hours of hand-on service, and built over 750 educational and recreational places for kids and families.
As well as being active participants in NBA Cares, many players have their own charitable causes and initiatives. We recently had the opportunity to sit and down and talk with some pros about what giving back means to them and how they’re using their unique status as professional athletes to bring about positive change in the world.
BallnRoll.com: We all know about NBA Cares. Tell us how you care and what giving back means to you.
Ed Davis: It means a lot. You never want to forget where you came from, so whenever you have the opportunity to give to the less fortunate—it doesn’t have to be money, it could just be your own words of advice, and just being around and being in someone’s life—whenever you have the chance to make an impact on someone’s life, it’s just a great feeling, a great thing to do.
LaMarcus Aldridge: I do it different ways. I did a food drive for Thanksgiving, giving food to families, so it means a lot to me to give back to the less fortunate and those in need.
Jose Calderon: It means a lot. I’ve been working with, not only NBA Cares, but also my own foundation in Spain, and UNICEF. Last summer I was in Africa with my own project trying to get drinking water to schools and other places. So at the end of the day for us to be in that spotlight, I think we are the right guys to make everyone see what we can do. With just a little, we can help a lot.
Kendrick Perkins: Where I grew up I didn’t get a chance to meet anybody famous, as far as any basketball players. I come from a country town in Texas and I always try to give back to my community. Whether it’s giving away turkeys for Thanksgiving, free haircuts, or anything that could help, I think you try not to overlook the people that don’t have anything or are struggling, because I was in those shoes at one point in my life. So just being able to bless somebody, help somebody, or make somebody’s day, or even make somebody’s year, is just a blessing. So it’s always important to give back.
Landry Fields: It’s should be mandatory, as it is, and it’s something that we all should do. We’ve just been so fortunate and blessed in our lives that to give back is something we should always make a high priority in our life.
Nicolas Batum: It’s huge for me. I started my foundation 3 years ago with my mom and my sister, with a few people back in Africa. So this summer I was in Cameroon, my home country. We especially like a French foundation called Giving Back, actually. So we spent 5 days in Cameroon doing stuff for the kids and women over there.
BallnRoll.com: Do you recall an organization or charity that helped you, or that you were exposed to when you were a kid?
Ed Davis: Not one off the top of my head, but I had a lot of mentors and a lot of people that made positive impacts on my life.
LaMarcus Aldridge: No, I just had a good high school coach and a good staff that just looked out for me
Jose Calderon: No, not really. We weren’t in a big-money family. We were just mid-level, both of my parents worked. But at the end of the day, if you’ve got the power to help people you’ve got to use it because we don’t realize what the real problems are sometimes.
Kendrick Perkins: Yeah, I remember I used to be in a Boys to Men club in the church, that was trying to teach young guys how to be a right man, and stuff like that. It helped a lot. That’s the thing that had the most effect on my life.
Landry Fields: I first started playing basketball at the YMCA. I had a lot of fun there in summer camps, and through my church as well. Those two community centers were very instrumental in my upbringing.
Nicolas Batum: No, no, no. I was in France so I had a good situation, but I know my family in Cameroon struggled so I just try to help them every time.
BallnRoll.com: Knowing the effect you may have on kids, do you need to watch yourself on and off the court?
Ed Davis: I don’t have to watch how I act. I do the right thing, but I just always want to be a positive role model. It helps me with my everyday life. I always want to make great decisions. A lot of people look up to me and I don’t want to let them down.
Jose Calderon: It’s really important. Like I always say, you’ve got to lead by example sometimes. Those kids, sometimes they just look at you because you play basketball, but if you do something different outside they’re going to keep looking at you. They know what you’re doing, they’re going to follow that, and that’s how everything works—it’s like a big snowball. Everybody’s getting into that, and that’s what we should try and do every time.
Kendrick Perkins: Absolutely. I’ve got kids of my own so I know how it is. They watch your every move whether you like it or not. You know it is just part of being mature and growing up. Most of us are icons to certain kids so you’ve got to watch everything you do and watch everything you say.
Landry Fields: Very important. Not matter who you are you’re a role model. I just think back to when I was a kid looking at some guys, and luckily I chose the right ones (laughing). It’s important for us to continue to look positive and continue to be upstanding citizens on and off the court.
Nicolas Batum: It’s huge for us. I had a role model when I was young and it was always good to have an example.
BallnRoll.com: What charities are you involved with that you’d like the people to know more about?
Ed Davis: No one charity in particular, but we had a ticket program here where we give tickets to the Boys and Girls Club,(http://www.nba.com/raptors/community/partnerships.html) and back home I work with a lot of inner-city kids so I’m just trying to mentor them and help them out.
LaMarcus Aldridge: The Children’s Heart Association. I had heart surgery so I try to give them support whenever I can. http://www.childrensheartfoundation.org/
Jose Calderon: We’re working with lots, but maybe something happened with a family member, or maybe there’s a friend that’s having problems with food and money, so I think it’s kind of open for everybody. At the end of the day it’s about helping. I’ve been working with UNICEF and Right to Play. I do a lot with kids. I think kids are the future. I think kids are the ones who can get us out of the mistakes we’ve been making and that’s why the world is the way it is. I think we can educate them and do better for them, and maybe they’ve got a better world after that, so it’s all about kids. My foundation is the Jose Manuel Calderon Foundation. http://www.fundacionjosemanuelcalderon.org/
Kendrick Perkins: I just want us to help the single parents out there that have two or more kids, who are struggling, working one job, and having a tough time. Let just start trying to help those people out. (we found a good one:) http://causewecare.org/