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Last weekend Cleveland was the center of the basketball world as the NBA converged on the shores of Lake Erie for NBA All-Star 2022. Not only was it a truly special event due to the league celebrating its 75th "diamond" anniversary but, there were plenty of memorable moments that happened on the court as well. Fans got to witness the first-ever HBCU Classic and G League Next Gem game, both of which will be staples of All-Star Weekend for years to come. They also got to see a newly-formatted Rising Stars Game and Skills competition as well as a ceremony honoring the 75 greatest players in NBA history – including a certain kid from Akron.
There was so much that happened in just three days' time but the overall impact Cleveland will feel from All-Star Weekend will last for years to come. Sure, there's the projected $100 million in revenue that's expected to hit the city according to Mayor Justin Bibb as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. A lot of that money will go to support current infrastructure as well as inner-city neighborhoods throughout Cleveland and that, of course, will leave a lasting impact. But, it isn't the only way the NBA, the Cavaliers and its players and so many others want to impact the greater Cleveland community – the projected revenue is only the tip of the iceberg.
During Sunday's All-Star game both teams were playing for the benefit of local charities. Team LeBron was playing for the Kent State I Promise Scholars. Team Durant, meanwhile, was playing for the Greater Cleveland FoodBank. In the end, Team LeBron was able to raise $450,000 after their 163-160 victory. Team Durant was still able to raise a substantial amount as well, netting $300,000 through their play. On top of that, the NBA partnered with State Farm to raise money for both charities based on the number of assists on Sunday night. In the end, there were 81 assists which resulted in an additional $153,900 donated to each charity.
"It's part of our mission as the league," said Todd Jacobsen, NBA Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility. "Since we started planning, the social and economic impact was critical and has become even more so coming out of a pandemic. So, the efforts of All-Star collectively will generate more than $100 million in economic impact and that's exciting. … We're incredibly excited to support the community at large."
While Sunday's game resulted in the most money being donated to local charities, it wasn't the only time it occurred. Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Darius Garland partnered with Pepsi and surprised students at Saint Martin de Porres High School through the Pepsi Stronger Together initiative. Garland, along with Derek Lewis, President, PepsiCo Multicultural Business and Equity Development and Fat Joe will be presenting the school’s drumline with all new uniforms and instruments, and $20,000 worth of scholarships for its seniors. It was also announced that they would be paying to send the school's drumline to the HBCU Battle of the Bands in Houston as well.
When asked by Right Down Euclid what compelled Garland to support the students at Saint Martin de Porres, he lit up. He shared that he's been in Cleveland for three years now and wanted to give back to a community that's given so much love to him and to see the student's reaction to it all made it worthwhile for him.
"It's super cool," said Garland to Right Down Euclid. "I've been working for this my whole life so just having this experience and putting a smile on all those kids' faces it's just super cool to be around. This has been the main goal, really – being around the community and trying to really support the community. I really love Cleveland and I'm trying to put smiles on some faces."
Garland also shared that former Cavalier LeBron James, an older brother figure to Garland, has told him that being involved in the Northeastern Ohio community was key. They hadn't had a chance to talk about it much during All-Star festivities that weekend. But, Garland shared that the advice James get him pushed him to collaborate with Pepsi on this project.
Cleveland Cavaliers rookie big man Evan Mobley was busy off the court during All-Star Weekend, including partnering with Gatorade to renovate a local recreation center.
Mind you, the contributions to the greater-Cleveland community didn't stop with Garland or All-Star Game donations. Cavaliers great Channing Frye partnered with Mobil 1 and their newly launched Tune Up program and Project Backboard to revitalize the basketball court at Merrick House in Cleveland. Microsoft also joined in on the unveiling of the new computer lab, while the nonprofit organization Hoopbus assisted in showcasing and utilizing a new gym during Frye's efforts.
Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley, meanwhile, also got in on similar action to Frye. Mobley partnered with Gatorade to surprise kids from Near West Recreation, a local social impact group that serves more than 1,000 kids each year, with news that Gatorade will fund basketball programming for hundreds of their kids and that the brand has also begun renovations at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Lakeview Community Center basketball court to ensure kids in the Cleveland Ohio City neighborhood can continue to play in a safe and welcoming environment. As part of the surprise, Mobley also led the kids through a basketball skills challenge in partnership with Bleacher Report.
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During All-Star festivities, Mobley also took part in the NBA Cares campaign to pack bags of books that will be donated to students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. When asked about it by Right Down Euclid, Mobley shared that it was exciting for him to give back to the Cleveland community, especially its youth. Not only that, but Mobley also shared that spending so much time with kids in Cleveland has sparked a new passion for him off the court as well.
Similar sentiments can be felt from Cavaliers All-Star big man Jarrett Allen as well.
"It's been really fun, actually," said Allen to Right Down Euclid. "I got to go to the local Children's Hospital yesterday and I got to see some of the kids in the pediatric unit. You know, my five-minute visit changed the world for them. They were down and they saw us and they were like, 'Oh my goodness! It's a real live basketball player!'
"I don't think they knew much about NBA All-Star weekend but they were still excited. And that it's awesome that the NBA has this platform to help the community and I hopped right on."
Even if it was for five minutes, Allen was able to touch the lives of children and make their day better. The same can be said for Cavaliers star guard Collin Sexton, who partnered with Jr. NBA as well as Cavs Youth Sports and Give N’ Grow, and host virtual gym classes for young students across the Cleveland Metropolitan School District as well as the Greater Cleveland area as part of NBA All-Star 2022. The 45-minute classes included a series of basketball-related activities and exercises led by Jr. NBA coaches and featured a virtual appearance by Sexton, who coached kids on ways to improve their game both on and off the court.
During that time, Sexton, along with NBA Rising Star and Orlando Magic Franz Wagner, also checked in with the students and made sure they were prioritizing not only their physical health but their mental health as well. Jeremiah Boswell, a coach that works with Jr. NBA and closely with this project, shared with Right Down Euclid that that's the primary goal at the end of the day. They want to make sure that children are able to express their physical and emotional feelings in a healthy way, all while further connecting to the local community through star players like Sexton.
Finally, even before the All-Star festivities began the NBA partnered with the Greater Cleveland FoodBank to give back even more than Team Durant could financially. In an event at the Muni-Lot, 72 volunteers were able to distribute shelf-stable food as well as a box of fresh produce to 2,100 households. The food will be able to help those families in need through the coming days, especially with the colder winter weather around this time of year. Not only that but, the financial donation from Team Durant will also help the Greater Cleveland FoodBank long-term as well.
"The Greater Cleveland FoodBank was thrilled and honored to be chosen," said Karen Pozna, Director of Communications and Special Events for the Greater Cleveland FoodBank. "Over the last two years during the pandemic has been both challenging and rewarding. We have had to be flexible and creative on how we serve the community. The need continues and we continue to be there to serve. This money and awareness will help so much in furthering our cause as we continue to feed those in need and adjust to the rising food costs."
Clearly, NBA All-Star Weekend 2022 was so much more than the action on the court. What the league, the Cavaliers and all the players were able to accomplish in so little time will be huge for years to come. The NBA also dedicated its 2,000th Live, Learn or Play center at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland on February 18. The NBA and Kaiser Permanente will also create a second Live, Learn or Play Center at the King Kennedy Boys & Girls Club, where a refurbished basketball court and new wellness space will be dedicated in the spring of this year. Additionally, the National Basketball Players Association Foundation will improve access to youth sports for school-aged children in the Greater Cleveland area, including through grants to Playworks and Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio as well. The immediate impact from all over during NBA All-Star 2022 was felt during and soon after the conclusion of events. But, it'll also be felt for years to come as well.
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