Los Angeles, CA: Time, energy and effort. These three words have everything to do with the game of basketball: the commitment to improving your fundamentals, the energy to keep working after the most exhausting of workouts and the effort to rise to the occasion even on the biggest of stages.
At the Jr. NBA World Championship, which starts Aug. 7, 32 teams from around the world will invest time, energy and effort with the goal of winning the inaugural international tournament that will feature the best basketball in the world between 13- and 14-year olds. While hoops will be the main focus of the event in Orlando, Fla., the lasting impact of the event’s off-the-court work will be felt for decades by the Central Florida community.
In partnership with KaBOOM!, all 32 participating teams will help build a new playground for local children at Oak Street Park, located less than 10 minutes away from the Amway Center, home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. The park will offer a safe place for kids to hang out, play and learn the game of basketball. It’ll also present players at the Jr. NBA World Championship a chance to learn some of life’s most important lessons.
“I think it’s really important because you’re building a foundation,” said Candace Parker, 5-time WNBA All-Star, 2-time WNBA MVP and player ambassador for the Jr. NBA World Championship. “They’re going to be giving back to the community and they’re going to be working on themselves.”
The Los Angeles Sparks star is no stranger to community service herself. She’s partnered with D.A.R.E., Loaves & Fishes and the Ronald McDonald House to offer a helping hand to organizations that need it most. And while Parker will go down as one of the best WNBA players in league history, she knows that life is about so much more than basketball.
“I think it’s huge to build those foundations and build those habits early so that you’re growing the person,” Parker said on a conference call on Wednesday. “You’re going to be a person far longer after the game of basketball is over.”
The lasting impact of a local community service event with Sparks teammate Chelsea Gray helped bring to life this way of thinking for Parker. It made her realize the profound effect of a simple notion.
“My teammate Chelsea Gray organized a shoe drive to give away [shoes] to homeless youth in the Los Angeles Area and it was one of those things where she causally mentioned it after practice,” Parker said. “It wasn’t an appearance that anybody had to be at and then the whole team showed up. I think that speaks volume to our support for Chelsea, but also our support for our community and understanding how important it is to give back and be there and give your time, energy and effort.”