The All-NBA Cares Team
The Association has long been big on charity, but when NBA Cares came into existence in 2005, community outreach and volunteer work became massive priorities.
According to NBA.com, "the league's teams and players have raised more than $220 million for charity, provided more than 2.5 million hours of hands-on service, and built more than 810 places where kids and families can live, learn or play in communities around the world."
What's even better is that marquee players like LBJ, KD and Steph (somebody get that guy a nickname) have taken the NBA's philanthropic philosophy to heart. Along with a few other stars, these players have taken it upon themselves to give back.
And since we're smack in the middle of August—otherwise known as the dead period in the NBA—why not put together an All-NBA Cares Team to honor those that go above and beyond the call of charitable duty?
Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Curry made news in the 2012-13 season by setting the NBA's all-time record for most three-pointers made in a season. But his groundbreaking long-distance performance last year didn't just help the Golden State Warriors, it also went a long way toward fighting disease in Tanzania.
That's because as part of Curry's Nothing But Nets program, every triple the guard sank resulted in the donation of three bed nets to parts of Africa stricken by malaria.
Curry even visited a refugee camp in Tanzania over the summer to see the people his three-pointers were helping.
Rick Reilly of ESPN described the scene:
These refugees don't know dunks, nor do they know why a 25-year-old NBA star, coming off his breakout season, would fly more than 8,000 miles and 24 hours, risk malaria, typhoid and yellow fever, just to hang bed nets in their mud huts for the anti-malaria program Nothing But Nets. On his vacation...
He'd meet a 25-year-old woman named Machozi, whose name means 'tear' and who's had malaria 20 times already. Her 6-month-old boy on her back is bloated and rust-colored from having it three times in the last three months.
He'd meet albino kids who had to flee their villages when chopping off albino limbs and grinding the bones into a 'magic' dust suddenly became witch-doctor-approved good luck in 2009.
'This is exhausting,' he said during one break. 'Emotionally. You know?'
Most NBA players are goofing off over the summer. At best, they're working on their games in the gym. But Curry was halfway around the world, helping people who had never heard of him before.
He can run the point for this team any day.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant has been doing his best to give back at home and abroad for years.
Locally, he formed the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, an organization with a stated goal of eliminating youth homelessness in Los Angeles.
According to Eliza Fisher of The Huffington Post: "Between 7,000 and 10,000 of LA's homeless are under the age of 24, a fact that Bryant said 'shocked the hell out of me.' He mentioned that as a father of two, the problem just 'hits home more.'
In Sept., 2011, Bryant told Arash Markazi of ESPN:
This isn’t a popular topic or a popular issue. It’s one where you have to get your hands dirty a little bit. It’s not something celebrities easily rally around but this is something that we wanted to change. This something we’re all going to have to fight, it’s going to be a long fight but I’m in it for the long haul.
Bryant's foundation provided funding to renovate My Friend's Place, a center that serves about 1,700 homeless youth per year.
He even sold his game-used facemask in 2012, raising more than $67,000 for charity. Every little bit helps.
In addition to his work in L.A., Bryant has also turned his charitable attention to China. Notably, he donated more than $730,000 to the relief efforts following a 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province through his Kobe Bryant China Fund.
The Black Mamba has a reputation for being selfish on the court, but he's got a real track record of helping others away from the hardwood.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant
The highest scorer on our All-NBA Cares Team, Durant gets credit for one massive assist. After tornadoes ravaged Moore, Oklahoma in May, KD donated $1 million to the relief effort.
Better still, the donation inspired others to get involved. When it comes to charity, it's one thing to give individually. But it's quite another when one person's generosity causes a chain reaction of philanthropy.
The Oklahoma City Thunder also pledged $1 million. Then Durant pressured Nike to get involved, which it did.
Eight-year-old Jay Fair was inspired, too. After hearing about what Durant did, he collected 82 pairs of new shoes for kids affected by the tornado.
It's says a lot about Durant's generosity when a $150,000 donation to youth and community organizations in his hometown seems like an afterthought.
Power Forward: LeBron James
James' charitable work mixes stunning, one-time donations with thoughtful, long-view approaches to social change.
His $1 million gift to his former high school to build a new gym certainly created some buzz, but it's James' involvement with kids through his foundation that figures to make a real difference down the line.
There are a half-dozen programs under the umbrella of the LeBron James Family Foundation, but one of the most impressive is the Wheels for Education program.
According to Evelyn Theiss of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the program is "designed to see more than 300 third-graders in the Akron Public Schools through to their high school graduations in 2021."
Kids get special incentives like bikes, school supplies and backpacks when selected for the program. They're monitored from that point on to make sure that their grades improve and their attendance stays high, and as an added motivator, they lose perks if their performance dips.
James' other work with kids included a $240,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Club in Akron.
You've seen the goofy TV commercials where James encourages kids not to drop out of school, but now you know he's also got a real plan to get the job done.
Center: Pau Gasol
This isn't a competition, but if it were, Pau Gasol might be this team's MVP.
In 2011-12, Gasol won the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and the Kia NBA Assist Award, marking him as the league's most philanthropic player. Gasol received the former honor at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, where he made more than 10 visits to young patients during the 2011-12 NBA season.
There are far too many instances of Gasol's generosity to mention. One of the highlights include his donation of $1,000 per point scored in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in March, 2011 to disaster relief following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times, that was nothing new for the Spaniard:
In addition to his Haiti relief efforts last year, Gasol makes frequent visits to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and provided a $20,000 donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Incidentally, that was the same amount Gasol donated in Haiti relief last season after scoring 20 points in a win against the Knicks.
Gasol is also a UNICEF ambassador and a spokesman for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
Oh, and while most NBA players were relaxing over the summer, he was visiting with Syrian refugees in Iraq. Gasol told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:
Most of the people didn't know who I was. They didn't know what I do. They saw someone that cared for them who was there to help them. That was there to listen to them, to play with children and be their speaker and be their voice and carry a message for them. It was a great experience.
There's really no other way to put it: This guy is a saint.