Being a basketball player in the NBA carries far greater responsibility than just playing for one of the 30 franchises in the league on a daily basis. There is that unwritten rule that players are supposed to give back. That mantra is one that some players may exercise through their team’s many community events and call it a day. But the vast majority of players do something more and take that responsibility a step further by forming their own charities or making appearances that allows them to do things outside of the team they play for.
On a sweltering August afternoon in South Florida, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight gave back to the community that helped him achieve so much of his success with a back to school drive at Margate’s Firefighter’s Park.Knight’s brother, Efrem, was responsible for many of the logistics of the event, which saw over 500 kids in attendance looking for their chance to get supplies and a glimpse of the budding floor general.
These types of events can be hectic, especially when free supplies are involved and everybody is jockeying for position to make sure they don’t miss out. In true point guard fashion, Knight took the lead when he instructed the volunteers on a way to simplify the distribution process as kids and parents stormed the room anxious for their goodies. Knight told the volunteers at the door to announce the number of bags each group entering the building should receive so that he and his team inside could be prepared and efficient. It was a small adjustment but the process, in turn, went more quickly and the families benefiting from Knight’s charity were that much happier.
It appears as Knight enters his fourth NBA season that he has become more acutely aware of his ability to lead in all things he’s associated with. In between his philanthropic duties he took some time to discuss the event, the Bucks, and even thanked me for my patience as I waited for my moment to speak with him. You will find that the former Kentucky product is maturing in all aspects of his life.
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Dime: So tell me a little about what you have going on here today. How were you inspired to do a back to school drive for kids in this community?
Brandon Knight: Well, we are doing a lot of different things here today. The main thing is back to school, but we’ve incorporated… foods, drinks, making sure it’s a family atmosphere, music, bounces houses, barbers and face painting. We are trying to do a lot of different things to entertain the kids and to create a nice event where we can give back. People may be able to get some of these materials but it makes it easier when you can get it for free.
Dime: Are you satisfied with the turnout?
Knight: It’s been a great turnout. We see that next year we will need to have more stuff because we ran through it today. We’ve been going strong for four hours. It’s just a great event and I am thankful. I just want to thank God for the opportunity [to give back].
Dime: This absolutely is an amazing event but is this part of your own charity organization? I noticed it’s being put on by the Knight Management Group with some other key sponsors.
Knight: This is just something that I’m doing. Knight Management Group is my brother’s company [Efrem Knight]. It’s just something that I wanted to do – you know get out there in the community as I get further along in my career. When I first started it was basketball, basketball, basketball but now I’m transitioning and getting better. Now that I am finding my niche in the league, I am starting to get more into community things and this is just the start of it.
Dime: Adidas has a huge presence here by sponsoring the back packs and 99 Jamz is here as well. How did you get them both to contribute to this event?
Knight: Well, 99 Jamz, I have been working with them for a while, since I got to the NBA really. So we have a very good relationship. And Adidas, well I have worn Adidas all my life. They are family as well and they do a great job of helping me with things like this; buying shirts, shoes, backpacks—whatever it is. They do a great job helping me.
Dime: You are from the South Florida area but how did you choose Firefighters Park as the spot to initiate this event? Does this park have specific meaning to you?
Knight: Oh definitely! When I first moved here to Broward County from Dade County this is where I first started playing basketball. I played my first rec league here. I met friends that I have for life out here. And this is a place that has big time meaning for me.
Dime: Are you able to or have you started doing things like this in the Milwaukee community too?
Knight: Well I just got to the Milwaukee community but I am doing my first camp this summer in Milwaukee. I’m sure as I continue to grow there as a player that I will continue to grow in the community as well.
Dime: As we talk about the city of Milwaukee and the team a little, there have been a lot of changes there over the summer. Have you been in the loop on any of those things and how much have you spoken to new head coach Jason Kidd?
Knight: I spoke to him [Kidd] a little bit, but real general stuff. I got a couple calls here and there about things that were going on but the owners are doing a great job of making a transition. They are trying to make things different. They are trying to change the aura of the team and do some different things and it’s all been very positive so far.
Dime: Last year when we spoke you were heading into your first season with the Bucks and were looking forward to playing with guys like O.J. Mayo and Larry Sanders. They both struggled badly last year. Have you had any conversation with them this summer or had to do anything to keep their spirits up?
Knight: Right… they both had great summers so far. They are going to be back strong next year and I’m not worried about those guys. They’re very motivated players and they are in the NBA for a reason. Everybody has those times when they are going to struggle. So it’s expected, but like I said I know my guys and I know they will bounce back. I’m really close to them and I know they won’t have a problem.
Dime: Well you didn’t struggle at all last year, posting career highs across the board. It became pretty apparent that you are ready to lead on that team. Now you have Jabari Parker coming in as highly-touted rookie. How do you think you two will coexist and share the leadership role? Will one of you emerge as the alpha dog?
Knight: It’s not really about being an alpha dog. It’s just about sharing knowledge and holding each other accountable. And for me as a point guard, I’m always going to be an extension of the coach. Guys are going to look to me regardless because of that. So like I said it’s not about being alpha dog, we can have more than one leader…more than one voice on the team. For him he might want to come in and learn from me or learn from some of the older guys. A lot of the older guys can be big voices and leaders on our team as well.
Dime: So with all of the changes in personnel, ownership and on the sidelines where do you see the Bucks going next season?
Knight: I’m looking forward to us just improving. It’s kind of early to tell but I’m expecting big things from our team. I’m not going to put a whole bunch of pressure on ourselves, but definitely I just want to see us improve. We’ll see where the season takes us but I am very confident in my team and our coaches.
Dime: Is that same goal for you personally – just to improve in general? Or is there something more specific?
Knight: No, it’s the same goal for me just to improve and be the player that I know I am. I think last year was just a small glimpse of what I can do. I think it was the first time that I played for a coach that really just allowed me to be myself. So it’s like I said, I am slowly carving out that niche and sooner or later people are going to have to recognize what is going on.
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