Voice gone, body exhausted… but feeling very inspired!! NBA All-Star Weekend2016 was a HUGE success! The past week has been a whirlwind of events – fit clinics, hospital visits, camp, Special Olympic games and so much more and I LOVED every minute of it!!
It’s such a blessing to be a blessing! I know I say that all the time, but the impact that we’ve made on the lives of so many in Toronto this past weekend is what we should live for. Everyone continues to ask me “What’s your favorite part of the weekend?” And, honestly, there are so many great parts that I don’t even know where to start! So, I’ll just go to the beginning of my All-Star experience and touch on the highlights of the days : )
Thursday jump started everything with photos and my NBAE circuit at one of the Toronto hotels. After that was finished, we rushed off to my first (of many) Fit Clinic at Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School. There, Robert “Big Shot” Horry and I interacted with over 100 middle school students through different stations. We were blessed to have members of the boys & girls High school team there to assist us on the court. The kids had a blast, and I know that we were able to impact each and every one of them.
After the clinic was finished and photos taken, my group headed to the “Hospital for Sick Children” to join up with Big Bob Lanier, Tammy Sutton-Brown, The Iceman, Ron Harper, Isaiah Austin, Brian Shaw, Mr. and Mrs. Paul and others to visit rooms, hang out, play games and just help the kids smile. It’s crazy how much we take for granted at times, but seeing these kids smile through pain and all that they’ve been through, you can sense the excitement they had for being able to meet some of their favorite basketball players!!
The grand finale for our Thursday night was attending Messai Ujiri’s docmentary premiere “Giants of Africa” with Parnell, Tammy Sutton-Brown and Ruth Riley. For those who know me, you know how excited I am about basketball, youth and being able to teach the game I love through my Catch the Stars Foundation camps and clinics. I was totally engulfed in the film and became a huge fan of Messai’s as scene after scene unfolded!! My next goal with them is… I WANT TO GO TO AFRICA and help the Giants of Africa include the girls in their movement too!! Catch the Stars YOU READY????
I started Friday morning talking about the 2016 WBCA AllState Good works team on a phone circuit with different media outlets. When all the calls were in, I headed to the Emercare Centre to be a part of Jr. NBA Day on Centre Court with Steph Curry and Anthony Davis. OOOOOoooooooo yyyeeaaaaaa!! Kids everywhere, and a great group of volunteers to help assist our lead clinician, Frank, another successful clinic on the books!! The smiles, the passion, the love for the game… that is what this is all about!!
Following the clinic, we headed back to the hotel, and all of the current and former WNBA players that were in Toronto had a meeting with Adam Silver, Mark Tatum and the new WNBA president, Lisa Borders. Our path in the first 19 years of the league through Val Ackerman, Donna Orender, and Laurel Richie has been successful, and I’m really excited about having Lisa carry the torch and help to continue taking our league to another level.
Best day yet!! Tammy and I teamed up to host our first ever “Girls All Star Basketball Clinic” at Ryerson University. We ended up with over 100 campers in which we had a lot of fun, great volunteers and saw some GREAT talent!! With this year being over already I’m already looking forward to the next camp in Charlotte!! Thanks to all of our partners and to all those who helped make our first year a HUGE SUCCESS!!!
It was hard to pull away from the camp, but the event that I look forward to ever year is the “Special Olympics All Star Game.” I got to the gym, changed into uniform and jumped on the court with 3 minutes of warm up left. Perfect ; ) I love playing in this game because of the competition and true passion these young men and women have. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to get up and down, have fun, joke around and enjoy everyone’s company. Now, don’t get me wrong you know I’m a competitor so the loss stung a lil bit, but I’ll be alright hahaha. The moments after the game signing autographs and taking pictures with my teammates and the other team and just being able to spend time with them is what I enjoy the most!!
All-Star Saturday night capped off the night with an amazing show, and a spectacular dunk contest to end the night. I wish that we could have rewarded both guys – Aaron and Zach with the trophy, but in the end only one man could stand as the champion. I was compelled by Aaron’s story of taking the trophy to show his big brother that he can dunk too LOL. I can definitely relate to the sibling rivalries growing up. Congrats to all of the winners of the night- Karl Anthony – Towns, Zach LaVine and Klay Thompson on a great Saturday night show.
This would be our last full day in Toronto and another full schedule on deck. We had round two of the clinic early at the Emercare Centre with 25 of our girls that attended the Saturday clinic, 25 boys from local clubs and a few brothers/sisters of our campers. Our lead clinician for the morning, Donnie, put them through a bunch of team competitions while we assisted to keep the energy and vibe from the day before.
After this clinic, there was a little time to rest in between and then Lindsay Whalen and I were headed to be on hand and lend our expertise to a Wheelchair Basketball Clinic. I’ve done this event quite a few times, but this was my first time actually being in the wheelchair and participating. I had a blast!! I commend our youth that came out and you could tell were just having so much fun!! I LOVE being able to help put smiles on the kids’ faces! So amazing!!!
We finished this clinic and jetted over to the WNBA Court for our last clinic of the weekend with about 25 young kids (think 9 and under) and putting them through fun activities and all of the basic skills of the game of basketball. A couple of the kids we worked with this was their FIRST time ever playing the game and from the laughs, smiles and expressions from them and their parents, it will not be their last time.
The night ended by attending Kobe’s last All-Star Game appearance and Paul George tying the All-Star game point record with 41 points. Russell Westbrook won the MVP, but the night was truly all about Kobe and the history that he has allowed us to be a part of. I swear I almost shed a tear during his intros and with Magic speaking. So amazing to be a part of his story and have him as a part of mine! Technically speaking, we came in together and we’re going out together!! History has definitely been made ; )
Well, as you can see, the weekend was a huge success! I don’t know how many All-Stars I’ve been too in my career, but I honestly think I’ve been to every one since I’ve been a pro (16 years strong). This is my last NBA All-Star as a player, but there’s definitely more to come! Thanks all for everything this past weekend! Such a blast and a blessing to be a part of! Until we meet again…
Best wishes and God Bless!