With fame comes power and prestige, not to mention wealth. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into charity or goodwill toward all. However, there are NBA players with all the world’s comforts, who, like U.S. Marines, offer what they can with the same selfless service. Here are five NBA players who — through charity and time — represent the spirit of altruistic understanding on the foundation of “we over me.”
Obviously, donating money and time isn’t the same as putting your own life on the line when people join the Marine Corps, but these NBA players have gone above and beyond the pale to try and enrich the lives of others and make the world a more decent place. This world could use more NBA players like these five.
5. Tim Duncan
Obviously Duncan is a selfless player, taking a pay reduction so his team can remain in the thick of a crowded Western Conference playoff race. But he’s again an All-Star this year, and his magnanimity extends beyond the court as well. His TimDuncan Foundation at slamduncan.com is one of the best around, working in education and youth sports. If Duncan doesn’t evoke the cause to protect and serve, we don’t know who does.
4. Taj Gibson
Per teammate, Joakim Noah, by way of the Chicago Sun-Times, comes this illuminating quote about Gibson’s team-first mentality on the court:
“To me I think Taj [Gibson] is probably the most selfless player in the NBA,’’ Noah said. “Whenever he’s called upon he always delivers. He brings it on the line every time. A lot of guys in his position might be upset with, you know, ‘I’m not starting,’ all of that. That sets the tone for our team, too. We all know that, everybody knows that, but in order to get to where we want to get to we need a big Taj Gibson.’’
That’s not all. Whether Gibson is traveling to Thailand or visiting a local children’s hospital to “just show my face and try and lighten their day,” he’s one of the best examples of what any team can accomplish when they work as a group, rather than a single entity.
3. Dikembe Mutombo
On the court, Dikembe Mutombo’s teammates could always count on his presence in the paint protecting the rim and acting as a blockade against any and all offensive players who scoot through.
But the four-time Defensive Player of the Year could have an even more dramatic impact on the lives of others with his off-court charity work, specifically on behalf of his native Congo. The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is a testament to Mutombo’s own travails moving beyond his impoverished upbringing in the Congo to attend Georgetown before moving on to his NBA career. Mutombo’s philanthropy is perhaps why FoxSports.com once named him the “most generous athlete in the world.
2. Manute Bol
Manute Bol is estimated to have donated $3.5 million to his war-torn native country in the South Sudan, as part of the Ring True Foundation, and that’s without the support of the millions today’s contemporary NBA stars currently earn. You can listen to him talk about the genocide in his native land here, and donate to his Sudan Sunrise project.
Akec Khoc, Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, summed up Manute’s big heart well on the day he was laid to rest:
“He gave his time to children, to the poor, to the displaced, to the helpless, to the sick everywhere.”
That’s the spirit you want in your professional athletes. There was only one Manute, and we’re not just talking about his imposing stature at 7-foot-7, but his ability to help his fellow countrymen.
1. Jack Twyman
Jack Twyman is the sporting world’s best teammate. Yes, Twyman was the first NBA player to average better than 30 points per game (31.2 in 1960), but it’s what he did for his teammate Maurice Stokes that keeps his spirit of camaraderie and an ethos of never leave a man behind alive even today.
Twyman became Stokes’ legal guardian and caretaker, despite the astronomical bills it took to give Stokes the care he needed after suffering a head injury that left him paralyzed and near death. David Whitley of the Sporting News rightly called him, “The greatest teammate in the history of the NBA,” while writing a feature on Twyman’s status as Stokes’ caretaker.
At the time of Stokes’ injury, NBA players didn’t earn enough for Twyman to afford to take care of Stokes. So Twyman started the Stokes game in upstate New York, which Bryan Curtis of Grantland wrote about last year.
At the time Twyman took over as his caretaker, since Stokes’ family wasn’t in a position to do so and Maurice needed 24-hour assistance if he were to survive the paralysis and the uphill climb back, he was just 23. Stokes was only 24, but Twyman was his teammate and the two forged a relationship that goes behind team, and even brotherhood, into a powerful bond.
There was never a better teammate than Twyman, which is why the NBA awards a special Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award each year.
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