Like many NBA All-Star weekend attendees and viewers, you might’ve been fixated on the NBA All-Star game hype and the dozens of all-star weekend parties that flooded downtown Toronto. But just outside obvious media sightlines, a mix of the NBA’s past and present — from East/West all-stars all the way to rising stars — donated their time and labour on Friday (Feb. 12) at the Enercare Centre to sort and repack food donations alongside the Daily Bread Food Bank.
“We all should take a moment to appreciate the position that we are in, and think about how others are faring,” New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony told Samaritanmag. The 2013 NBA scoring champion and nine-time NBA All-Star could be seen packing cartons and bags of carrots, green peppers and potatoes with the same fervour as when he sets up to hit a flurry of 20-foot jump shots.
“Those who have influence should always try to give back, especially those who know what it was like to grow up in underprivileged communities. It’s only right,” he said.
The food bank initiative was part of the NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service, and on this day nothing much else outside of community service mattered.
Outfitted in a sea of red NBA Cares tees, the only way one could distinguish the NBA players from the more than 400 volunteers, including the Daily Bread Food Bank staff, was, of course, their height.
Retired 7”2 center Dikembo Mutombo, one of the greatest shot blockers of all time, seemed to have little time for press; he was too busy stuffing bags of onions, carrots and potatoes into fresh healthy food hampers. While it took him a while to squeeze his massive hands into the work gloves provided (one woman kept repeating “put the gloves on already”) once he did, he started packing bags at a furious pace.
At this gathering, it became clear that the NBA Cares program — a global social responsibility initiative that builds on the NBA’s mission of addressing important social issues, and that provides 3 million hours of hands-on service to others — must have significant sway in the minds of the NBA players themselves.
In addition to the sea of NBA veterans and All-Stars, from three-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat) to rising star John Wall (Washington Wizards), NBA commissioner Adam Silver was on hand, as well as Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri.
Ujiri, who has become one of the faces of this newer generation of NBA executive philanthropists, also rolled up his sleeves and packed food with the smile of a charitable veteran.
“It’s really important because some of us come from communities and were once people in these positions,” Ujiri told Samaritanmag of his intrinsic need to pay it forward and why he started his Giants of Africa Foundation to give back to the youth of Africa by teaching life and basketball skills.
“Now that we’ve been put in maybe better positions and we have the opportunity to have the jobs that we have, we always have to give back and give opportunities to others. It’s what I always preach, and I’m so proud of the NBA, and so proud to be a part of all of this.”Sneakers Nike