There are experiences that alter how we all view life. For Lakers center JaVale McGee, it came on his third trip to Uganda.
Prior to the NBA 2019-2020 season, McGee ventured out to Uganda on behalf of The Juglife Foundation, a company he co-founded with Kez Reed to aid underdeveloped areas gain access to clean water all over the world. Along the way, McGee found himself and his worldview changed with some of the things he saw.
One of the ways The Juglife Foundation contributes to creating clean water solutions for underprivileged areas are by selling apparel such as hats, shorts and water bottles. The foundation then takes the earnings and not only places clean water wells in those areas, but also teaches those in the area how to sustain it for life.
Despite McGee’s busy schedule, he carved out some time to talk to Dime about how this last trip changed his outlook on life, managing playing ball and trying to hydrate the world, and how it feel the be one of the locker room vets.
You guys have just debuted the shorts for The Juglife Foundation, what’s the response been like?
The responses have been great. The requests for gear have been abundant.
You went Uganda this summer, describe how the trip was like?
It’s my third time going, and it’s been one of the most humbling experiences that I’ve ever been on. It really makes you appreciate things that you have in your life and stop complaining about certain things that are trivial. You’re worried about this and that and there are people in a whole other country worried about “how am I gonna survive today?, I have to walk 30 miles just to get a drink of water and then go 30 miles back and take it back to my village and most of the time it’s contaminated water”. So there’s so many aspects to things that have happened and it’s extremely humbling.
Since this was your third trip to Uganda, has it been a different experience each time?
Every experience has been different but this last experience has been extremely different because we stopped by a hospital and when you think of hospitals, you think of hospitals in America and how they work. But this hospital was so humbling and I really can’t put it into words. There were no beds, no machine, everyone was cramped up. They had a ward for the men, women and children but only four doctors on staff.
Everybody was being treated the same, if you had a broken leg, you got an IV. (pauses) It’s atrocious, the hospital situation over there that we went to, and it’s extremely humbling and it really made me think about things that I never thought about, which is health insurance and things like that we as Americans get.
How did this last trip transform what you wanted to do with The Juglife Foundation?
It made me feel like I’m doing the right thing. I’m really contributing to something and my life is more than traveling across the country and playing basketball. I actually get to help to help people and it’s a way bigger picture for me playing basketball than I originally thought.
I hate to transition to basketball but how did you juggle managing Juglife and preparing for this NBA season?
It wasn’t hard at all, it’s all about focus and your priorities. I prioritize basketball, my family and then the foundation. It’s just time management and making sure you’re focused on what you have to do.
You’ve done everything from participate in a dunk contest to helping win an NBA Championship, what’s the one thing that you want to accomplish?
Um, probably get on an All-NBA team. Get on the All-Star team, like any other player.
You’ve played long enough in the league to be considered a veteran now, what’s that like?
It’s a weird feeling, just knowing you’re one of the older guys. The younger guys coming through like “what do I do here.” It’s pretty cool in one aspect, but it’s also like “damn, I’m getting old.”
When did the “I’m getting old” feeling first hit?
I feel like it happens everyday. You teach these young guys things everyday that you would think that they’d know already but then you sit back and think about it like “I didn’t really know that when I was a rookie” which was eleven years ago. It’s like time repeats itself and to think I was asking my vets when I was a rookie, and the rookies are asking me now.