With the annual NBA Cares Week of Service starting soon Oct. 21-27, goodwill is in the air along with that crisp fall savour. NBA players, long known for their community action and charitable giving, are no strangers to helping out their fellow man. But while anybody with a million-dollar paycheque can just give money to those in need, these guys are out in the field, working, sweating and taking a stance for what they believe in. Today, we celebrate some of the most interesting recent acts of kindness, selflessness and civic servitude—both big and small—at the hands of our off-court heroes.
OKC Thunder repair tornado-damaged basketball courts
The Oklahoma City Thunder are making sure that there will always be plenty of little ballers running around Moore, Okla. In a move that simultaneously brings us back to our childhood and melts our hearts, the Oklahoma City Thunder are committed to helping rebuild three basketball courts that were destroyed back in a tornado on May 20. Immediately after the act of god, players including Kevin Durant personally appeared to visit victims of the destructive cyclone. The team also threw in a cool $1 million at the time to help with the healing process. We’re sure the kids are counting down the days until the courts are completed, and we’re looking forward to that moment. Nothing will help the kids heal and move past a terrible chapter in their lives better, we say.
Chicago Bulls paint the town red
Rather than host a single event, the Chicago Bulls are currently in the middle of a week of service ahead of their 2013-14 season, dubbed Paint the Town. Although they’re making their fair share of appearances at ribbon cuttings, the good guys from ChiTown will be personally making a difference from Oct. 14 to 21 and supporting youth education, health, wellness and violence prevention. They started with a fan favourite—the basketball clinic—at Mercy Home, a charity that helps at-risk children, and moved onto counselling local students about their future careers. Planned for today is a school food drive benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository (35,000 pounds of food were collected last year, and the lucky elementary school that collected the most got a pep rally from the team this week). The giving concludes with the team hosting 100 kids at the Bulls-Bucks pre-season game. A class act: they work hard, and then they thank their partners with a little show. What more could you ask for?
Portland Trail Blazers blaze a trail for equal marriage
Although the Trail Blazers’ statement consisted of a mere two sentences, it represented a monumental win for rights activists in the LGBTQ community, and humanity as a whole.
“The Portland Trail Blazers are in support of the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection ballot initiative. We do so as believers in individual choice as a fundamental right of all people.”
With a clear anti-gay bias in today’s NBA, it’s rare for a player to stand up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, let alone a whole team making it their official stance (and as far as anyone is concerned, that takes guts). Sure, some say this is a political move on the Trail Blazer’s part, and others say it’s simply serving their more progressively-minded fans, but we’re betting that because of their simple act, things are bound to get better for all basketball fans. High-profile endorsements help speed up society’s acceptance of all individuals, and makes fans question why such barriers exist in our favourite sport.
Boston Celtics float to help local Boys & Girls Club
Well, technically, Brandon Bass still hasn’t fully mastered the art of floating, but good on him for his small act of kindness in late September: volunteering at the Boston Boys & Girls Club in Boston, where he himself started learning how to swim while helping inspire 10 little kids to conquer their own fears. However, his contribution isn’t to be trivialized, as last year experienced record numbers of drowning deaths among children. Incidentally, this is the same Boys & Girls Club that teammate Rajon Rondo volunteers at, and where he helped drop off Christmas presents last holiday season.
The $1 million 1-on-1
Okay, we said we weren’t going to mention anything about simple giving, but $1 million is hardly a cop-out. Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has challenged the one and only MJ to a head-to-head match. Now, it’s not necessarily happening, but if it did, it would represent one of the largest NBA-related contributions we’ve seen in a while. Pera was also scheduled to go head to head with Tony Allen (a veteran volunteer who’s known for being involved with his community) for a charity game, but that was cancelled and is due to be rescheduled. Still, that game was also nothing to scoff at, as Pera promised $100,000 to Allen’s charity. We’re looking forward to Pera putting his money where his mouth is, especially if it means helping kids who want to learn basketball.
Honourable NCAA mention: High Point University builds support with Habitat for Humanity
Sure they still play college ball, but this is something we’d like to see more of in the professional leagues. High Point University’s men’s basketball team volunteered to personally build a house and sheds, as well as do some landscaping in a community not far from their school. We’re betting Habitat for Humanity was particularly happy to have some young men at their peak physical form on board.