As a fan of the NBA, it can be difficult to remember that superstars have lives away from the court. We watch them on a daily basis strive to be the best, and we critique their every move when they fail to meet expectations.
But in a world where criticism is high and the spotlight is on, there's a second part to each player that is oftentimes forgotten.
Off the court, the stars lead busy lives. There is certainly down time, as noted in a video game story by CNN's John Gaudiosi; however, what we seem to miss is that there's another side to the NBA—a side that we overlook when we're watching games from home.
The following cases make up a small sample size of what you'll find when you dig deeper, but they give us a better idea of who these people are once they step off the court.
The Players Union
Howard Beck of The New York Times states it best when he says, “In the players union, as in the N.B.A., star power matters." The league hasn't seen many stars take command during meetings in the past, which is why it was such a big deal when LeBron James stepped forward during the 2013 All-Star Weekend.
According to Beck, James, alongside Jerry Stackhouse, was the driving force in the decision to fire then-union executive director Billy Hunter. The 28-year-old asserted himself as a major representative for the union, and his direct presentation was refreshing to see compared to stars' involvement of the past.
Beck references Pat Garrity in 2009, and how he was more likely to be intimidated by Hunter than a top-tier player would be. Beck states that aura and respect both matter in these meetings, and the best way to show those characteristics is by letting the faces of the league lead the way.
SLAM Magazine @SLAMonline
http://t.co/rN8SHHz2: Kobe Bryant Urges NBA Stars to Be More Active With Players Union http://t.co/qguCd9gG #SLAMnewswire #NBA2/6/2013, 4:35:49 PM
The Family Man
In an article written by Wade himself in 2011 (via thedailybeast.com), the star recaps the public divorce and custody battle he went through to obtain full-time status when it came to his kids. It was an ugly situation, but Wade states that his sons' "laughter gives me all I need to face whatever is happening in my life."
Through the bad situations, Wade has turned things around to be even closer with his children. He's even promoting his ideas through a new book—one that has frequented The New York Times' Best Sellers list.
Humbled RT @DwyaneWade #AFATHERFIRST makes 2nd week on NY TIMES Bestseller List! Dwyane Wade's home court advantage http://t.co/v4y1NXwv9/20/2012, 3:09:13 AM
In today's NBA, we see images of players partying and accompanying celebrities on a regular basis, but you have to remember that sometimes personal affairs go much deeper than what's on the surface.
There's no denying that NBA players—especially superstars—have more money and power than most people will ever experience. It's easy to sit back and scoff at their good fortune, but it's also important to realize that a lot of player do a lot of good throughout their communities.
There are plenty of examples when it comes to stars' charitable work. It's always refreshing to see players giving back, and Carmelo Anthony is one who has become one of the best.
Ian Begley @IanBegley
RT @YourManDevine: Compared to other pro athletes, Carmelo Anthony is very good at charitable work: http://t.co/KIynQX0OI6 #Knicks2/26/2013, 7:51:24 PM
According to Callum Borchers of The Boston Globe (h/t ESPN's Ian Begley), Anthony's charitable foundation is one that works in a time where athletes' non-profits typically disappoint. Anthony is willing to pitch in financially, which keeps costs down and donations high.
Melo has been an easy player to critique on the court throughout the years, which makes it easy to forget—or ignore completely—that he's actually done a lot of great things. However, he's earning a ton of credit for his career season in 2013, and he deserves that same recognition for his efforts off the court.
The Man of the People
Basketball players are role models, and in a league that focuses so much on its stars, it's the top players that everyone wants to meet.
Wade, while shopping in New York, took the time to join a pick-up game in SoHo (via Animalnewyork.com) with some young basketball players. His quote of the video comes when he says, "They might not let me play," as if that were ever really a possibility.
Even if a player doesn't make surprise visits to parks, the world of social media has made it easier than ever for fans to interact with the stars—and vice versa.
Working with charities is a great way NBA players can impact their communities, but sometimes, a simple 140-character message is all it takes to make someone's day. Twitter can be used for both good and bad, but in a day and age where negative actions often obtain the most coverage, it's easy to overlook the good that can take place.
Carmelo Anthony @carmeloanthony
Win 4 tix to the @nyknicks v. @BrooklynNets gm by being 1st to answer ea. trivia question correctly w/ hashtag #MeloNetwork. 5 winners total12/19/2012, 12:33:15 AM
But who says that you have to be off the court to show fans a little appreciation?
Kevin Durant took the opportunity to make a kid smile with a special delivery in Sacramento. With his night in the books, he took off his shoe, passed it through security and made sure that a fan in the audience got to take home a special souvenir.
The NBA is a job, and there are a lot of difficult things that come with such a high-profile occupation. But like the announcer said in the video above, these players were once kids, too.
Do we know everything about our favorite athletes? Not even close. There's a whole other side to them that we never see, and when it comes down to it, that's the way it should be.
Nobody wants every aspect of their lives in the spotlight, and even the friendliest of stars have lives that they'll undoubtedly keep to themselves.
Cheer for your favorite players—and even boo for the rest—but don't forget that each player is a person, and each person has something to offer outside of the confines of the arena.