Basketball can bring people together. Fathers and sons. Different races. Different religions. None of that matters on the court.
A decade ago, Vlade Divac and the United Nations started using basketball to bring together youth divided by the war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.
Divac is now enjoying the success of the program, something he talked about with Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated in a real must-read story.
“What had happened was Vlade and I were in the [NBA’s] New York offices on a Sunday, where he was shooting a commercial for the United Nations,” recalled Kim Bohuny, the senior vice president of international basketball operations who essentially serves as the NBA’s global ambassador. “A gentleman from the U.N. said, ‘We don’t know what to do — we’ve tried music, we’ve tried soccer, and nothing is working to get our young children together. We think the only thing that could possibly work is basketball. Do you think the NBA would be interested in bringing together young children from all six countries?’ “
Divac worked with the U.N. and Toni Kukoc — Divac and Kukoc had been Yugoslavian teammates who no longer spoke as Divac was now Serbian and Kukoc Croatian.
From the first camp held in neutral Italy and bringing together youth from the six countries that had once been Yugoslavia the Basketball Without Borders program has grown to a worldwide phenomenon.
Last month, another camp was held in Rio de Janeiro; another camp will be held next month in South Africa. More than 1,600 teenage stars — hand-picked as the best in their regions — will have attended these BWB camps over the last decade. Seventeen have been drafted into the NBA, including Marc Gasol, Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari, Nicolas Batum and Omri Casspi.
Divac had a very good NBA career, but the legacy of this program may be his biggest gift to basketball. And to youth in troubled countries.
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.
New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.
That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.
Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.
Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.
Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.
He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.
The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.
Smart move, Jimmy.
This had long been expected, but now it is official.
North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.
“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”
Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).
Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.
Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.