National Basketball Association (NBA) is perhaps one of the biggest and wildly known athletic organizations around the world. 30 teams, 82 games for each team every year, and then playoffs for 16 best teams, all leading to only one champion at the end. Millions of fans around the world (myself included) are excited to watch highlights of flashy passes, vicious dunks, fancy dribbling, and enjoy the game of basketball. The rich history of NBA created an Empire that many people today praise and love. Of course, like any sport in this world it has its ruins: hundreds of players every year experience injuries. Some are minor and last around few days or couple weeks, some are more serious and may cause serious long-term health problems for an athlete, and some may even end a person’s career. (This is just a current list of injured NBA players so far with an only couple of months into this season: http://www.espn.com/nba/injuries.) But even though there are sad stories to be told, I want to focus on a good side of the NBA. And I don’t mean the exciting part filled with action on the court, I want to talk about NBA’s deeds off the court, or as the title says – within the community.
Many people know or heard about NBA, including league’s huge community program – NBA Cares. Millions of people every year receive some kind of help from NBA players. The intense focus of the programs is mostly directed at children. Even in a prosperous country like America, many people are less fortunate than others in terms of money, health, or family. The athletes being in a position of prosperity have the opportunity to give to others, making the world a better place. The purpose is not to make global impact trying to fix the world and its problems. The purpose is to be able to connect with children as individuals and make alasting impact in the life of upcoming generation (I won’t start quoting clichés, since probably, most people know the importance of children).
But what is the difference let’s say between and NBA star and a social worker. (well aside from the fact that social worker does it more often, sacrifices more, deals with it on a daily basis, and etc.) The whole experience would not be the same. People respond differently to celebrities and athletes: being around them and having their attention makes us feel special, of course, that experience is greatly exaggerated by media, but let’s not be cynics and just think that not everything is done for show, and there is a level of genuine attraction between famous and regular. The same cynic and critic might say that what difference does it make, when a guy with a ball in his hand comes and spends hours with one sick kid. Well, it makes all the difference for that particular kid, and if we look from his/her perspective that will give lasting memories for entire life. Here is an example (well since it is the year about ruins, I have to bring in some picturesque and emotional appeal, even though it makes me sad).
Miyah was little 6-year-old who died because of lymphoma in 2014. She was a very happy and cheerful girl. Battling cancer was tough, but Miyah didn’t give up and was still full of life and enthusiasm even after all of the chemotherapy sessions. She had a dream about meeting Nicki Minaj. Somehow, one person heard about that dream: John Wall, point guard for the Washington Wizards (he is a very good player by the way). He met with Miyah, but since he didn’t know Nicki Minaj personally, John posted a video online asking her to come and meet with her fan. Soon, Miyah’s dream came true and she met her idol. In the process, Miyah and John became very close friends. They encouraged each other every day and remained friends throughout her short life. For Miyah, John was a buddy and someone she looked up to, and for John she was exactly the same as he was to her. After Miyah died, John Wall broke down and cried during the interview at the Celtic-Wizard game (it was one of the best games in his career). Later, he funded a tribute for his friend “Miyah’s Troope”. That day Wall skipped the game in order to walk in her honor. (here is a link to a video, if you found the story touching)
I think that this kind of relationships makes the world a better place. It is important to care, to be involved. Involvement is the key to building an empire where people feel connected. It is also a key to integration of the person. The more you become involved in something, that will become part of you. It’s just like basketball: on the surface, it’s just a game, but if you dig deeper you will be surprised how much happens off the court because people are involved. That is what defines basketball, that is what basketball truly represent, the unspeakable joy and unforgivable moments that involvement brings. And if involvement is constant it becomes internalized, part of who we are.