Height and wingspan rank among the most important measurements of players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), but another metric is becoming significant as well: social responsibility. The NBA has committed to increasing its charitable outreach and social impact through the NBA Cares campaign, which launched in 2005. Serving as the central charitable arm of the association, the multifaceted platform allows athletes, coaches, and NBA sponsors to participate in initiatives that benefit a wide range of causes.
NBA Cares has successfully generated more than $270 million in fundraising efforts, and millions of hours of volunteer service have strengthened the presence of the campaign. All-Star week, for example, has evolved into a hallmark event of the NBA Cares initiative as the association organizes dozens of service projects in the host city, where star athletes gather to work side-by-side with their biggest fans.
NBA Cares operates on a year-round basis through six major programs, and the specific objectives and achievements of each are outlined below.
1. Hoops for Troops
The Hoops for Troops initiative at NBA Cares has flourished into a major collaboration between members of the NBA, the United States Department of Defense, and organizations focused on serving veterans. Promotions for the cause appear throughout social media channels, allowing fans to pledge their commitment and participate in a number of activities and receive giveaways. In addition, the Hoops for Troops component of NBA Cares advocates for hiring veterans and former military members.
Examples of NBA teams and players supporting the troops include the Brooklyn Nets inviting military members to shooting practice and the Philadelphia 76ers hosting Stars & Stripes Night. In addition, the New York Knicks recently organized a Military Appreciation Day for families to meet and practice with the players.
2. My Brother’s Keeper
President Obama and his administration launched the My Brother’s Keeper program to build a network of mentors for young men and boys of color. Several players in the NBA, such as Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics, have joined the cause. NBA Cares as a whole has initiated a multi-year commitment to help increase the number of mentors by 25,000. Along with recruiting mentors, the organization will promote school attendance and academic excellence in underserved communities.
3. NBA Community Assist Award
In partnership with Kaiser Permanente, the NBA encourages charitable giving by awarding a player every month for his contributions. A first-time all-star and league-leading rebounder, Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award in February 2016. He has demonstrated a strong commitment to assisting youth with special needs in the Detroit community. Along with presenting the award to Drummond, the NBA and Kaiser Permanente donated $10,000 to Special Olympics Michigan, the charity of Drummond’s choice.
The organization also presents a Seasonlong NBA Cares Community Assist Award, and the 2014-2015 recognition went to Russell Westbrook, a point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook earned the award for his consistent contributions to charity and for his overall commitment to the NBA’s mission to give back. In fact, shortly after he was named the 2015 Kia NBA All-Star MVP, he donated the Kia he won to a family in need through his involvement with Sunbeam Family Services.
4. NBA FIT
The NBA FIT initiative has three messages for kids everywhere: be active, eat healthy, and play together. NBA Cares provides a link to the FIT website, where children can read tips on how their favorite players stay in shape and improve their teamwork skills. Infographics also give young fans access to fun facts, such as how many miles D’Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers runs per game (1.9). From lists of nutritious food suggestions to videos of training workouts, the FIT campaign offers a number of helpful health and wellness resources for kids in the US and around the world.
5. NBA Green
Environmental awareness is another top concern for the NBA, and NBA Green represents a collaboration with the Green Sports Alliance and each team in the league. As part of the initiative, the Portland Trail Blazers hosted a series of five “Green Games” over the past season, each focused on a different aspect of sustainability: energy, water, food, transportation, and waste. The team also launched a new website to update fans on ongoing projects to conserve energy in the team’s arena, eliminate waste, and offset water consumption. On the East Coast, the Miami Heat completed renovations on American Airlines Arena to qualify for LEED Gold Recertification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2016.
6. Season of Giving
During the holiday season, NBA Cares promotes charitable giving through the #NBACares hashtag challenge. Basketball fans can post a description or picture of their efforts on Twitter or another social media outlet, and the posts allow people to connect and inspire each other to give back in their own communities. In addition, the Season of Giving page at NBA Cares features a mosaic where individuals can search for their Twitter handle and find themselves pictured in the NBA family of giving.