Yes I will admit it. I have been critical of what the NBA calls All Star Weekend and how they distribute game tickets to corporate sponsors and celebrities instead of the young fans. You know, the kids that wear Lebron’s jersey as a fashion statement and fatten the NBA financial coffers at the same time.
I also am guilty of having the old-school mindset, one that wants to see the league’s premier players simply play the game, without all the concerts and pyrotechnics at half time. Heaven forbid some real hoops story breaks out somewhere instead of the latest pop star serenading me as I reach for yet another slice of pizza and another soda. (Yes I know these people are both talented and popular.)
But lost somewhere in all the hoopla this past weekend in Phoenix are a couple of stories you probably did not hear about as they were definitely under the radar and they clearly put into perspective what we often take for granted in our society: the ability professional athletes have to empower and provide unadulterated joy to those less fortunate.
On the Friday before the game, current and retired NBA stars assisted in various remodeling projects for homeowners who could not afford the necessary repairs to their properties.
The project also included the donation of 40 personal computers to an elementary school to provide the resources for a sorely-needed new computer lab, replacing units that were 10 years of age.
Several players also donated time over the weekend to terminally ill children that were attending the festivities courtesy of the NBA and in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. These children were allowed unprecedented access to locker rooms, player parties, and were also allowed to sit on the bench during the game. They all went home with tons of autographed merchandise, but more importantly, memories and a smile from being recognized by those they look up to.
At a time when we often read about bad decisions made by professional athletes, it was refreshing and inspiring to see those in a position to truly make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate do just that and then some.
Notes: Danny Granger, who also participated in the various programs to help others, was limited to 10 minutes of action in the game due to a sore knee and scored two points on a dunk. He also competed in the Three Point Shooting contest, which was won by Daequan Cook of the Miami Heat.
The West squad defeated the East All Stars 146-119. Kobe Bryant scored 27 for the West and was named Co-MVP along with former Laker Shaquille O’Neal. Lebron James led the Eastern squad with 20, while Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade added 18 each.
Hall of Famer Bill Russell who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, was honored at the All Star Game. The NBA announced that the NBA Finals MVP award will now be called the Bill Russell MVP Award.
The Pacers will conduct a Reading Time-out featuring Black Historians in conjunction with their ongoing observance and celebration of Black History Month. The event will be at Conseco Fieldhouse on February 25 at the Pepsi Square prior to the game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Pacers, who are just under four and one half games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, entertain the Chicago Bulls this Sunday in a special noon matinee start. For tickets, call Conseco Fieldhouse box office at (317) 917-2727 or visit www.Ticketmaster.com.
Danny Bridges can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.