Thursday, August 5, 2010

Basketball without Borders

Watching kids play basketball with NBA and WNBA players... barefoot. Donating basketballs to a local center for at-risk children. Eating lunch with the Cape Verdean National Basketball Team (they took THIRD in the African Championship in '07, believe it or not). Meeting and discussing the USA and sports with the President of Cape Verde. These were the situations I found myself in the past few days and I loved it.

This week my faith in professional athletes was restored. The NBA, and their Basketball without Borders program, sent a small delegation to Cape Verde as a Sports Envoy to run clinics with kids from three different areas of Santiago, the island where we live. Mike has been working on this program of sports diplomacy for months now and dedicated time and resources to make sure that it went off without a hitch. Congratulations to Mike because not only was the visit a huge success but it was a BLAST!

The visiting delegation was comprised of Brooks Meek, VP of International Operations for the NBA, Willie James Green, Jr.- currently playing for the Philadelphia 76ers- and his brand spanking new wife Terrah (they got married July 4th), Nykesha Sales- former WNBA player from the Connecticut Suns and the franchise's all time leading scorer- and her good friend Keia Howell.

The first day Mike spent with the athletes, he came home and asked me, “Do you know why I am NOT a professional athlete?” I had to bite my tongue to not say the many things that came to mind (just kidding, Mike). He then told me that after 11 hours of travel around the island, running these clinics for hours in the hot sun, the players were getting back to their hotels to fit in a workout before dinner. Obviously staying in shape is their full time job, but it is inspirational to be around people who are so dedicated and so passionate about their work. This passion also came through in their work in Cape Verde. No matter how hot the courts were, how bumpy the cobblestone road was, how long the tour of an unfinished stadium went on, this group touted smiles, regaled us with hilarious stories and had a sincere appreciation of this wild ride on our rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Arriving well in the wee hours of Saturday night and staying on until early Wednesday morning, we packed so much into the short visit that this blog post would be way too long to be enjoyable. I am having a really hard time putting into words how awesome this experience was, but posted photos on Flickr for you to see for yourself.

Thanks to Brooks, Nykesha, Keia, Willie, Terrah...AND MIKE for making this one of my best weeks in Cape Verde yet!

For local press coverage (to see Mike on TV!) click on the links below:

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