10 Genuine Good Guys in the NBA
Mind-boggling salaries, Glitzy bling. Parties galore and lifestyles that most people couldn't even consider.
That's often the thought process when we are talking about the personal lives of NBA players, who appear to have as many excesses as any group when the subject is extravagance.
That may be an easy thought, but it's not necessarily an accurate one.
Sure, there are many players who live the good life—or perhaps the spectacular life—but there are plenty of good guys in the NBA who realize there is a lot more to being successful than just acquiring cars, homes and other trappings of wealth.
In this piece, we look at 10 good guys around the league who demonstrate that they have the interests of the public at heart and that they are not just in it for money and glamour.
Luol Deng, Miami Heat
Luol Deng has never forgotten where he comes from.
The native of war-torn the Republic of South Sudan has spent much of his NBA career trying to give back to his beleaguered homeland.
Ethnic violence has been the rule in South Sudan, and Deng has tried to offer his homeland financial and emotional support.
Deng has a sympathetic heart for people in his homeland who have suffered numerous tragedies and personal losses for years. That's why he remains committed to helping them.
"I wish I could wake up tomorrow and nobody needs help," Deng told the Associated Press (via ESPN) in 2014. "But we all know that's not going to happen. I'm just happy to be in the position that I'm in to be able to do the things that I'm able to do."
Deng has worked hard to establish the Luol Deng Foundation, which helps those in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as his home country.
The foundation is a global nonprofit organization that allows Deng to use his basketball fame as a platform to bring hope to those in need.
Among the initiatives is building outdoor basketball courts in his home country and funding holiday events in the United States, as he makes sure that needy people have food and gifts at holiday time.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Joakim Noah has left it all on the court throughout his nine-year run with the Chicago Bulls, and his body has suffered incredible abuse during his career.
Noah was able to play in just 29 games this year before he was shut down by injuries, but he continues to be a huge part of the NBA community even when he can't contribute his hard-nosed, all-out hustle play on the court.
Noah has taken on a lead role in public service with his Noah's Arc Foundation. That organization is dedicated to helping children have a stronger sense of self through various initiatives.
Noah has created videos designed to comfort those who have lost loved ones to violence, and he gets his teammates involved in the productions. His "You're Not Alone" video featured teammates Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Nazr Mohammed, and it was designed to raise awareness to the gun violence problem in Chicago.
Noah's projects have regularly been about keeping the peace and encouraging young people to express themselves through sports and art.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
The future Hall of Famer has been dominating on the court since his rookie season of 1997-98 with the Spurs, and he has been a part of five championship teams while averaging 19.0 points per game and 10.8 rebounds.
Tim Duncan has been one of the nicest players in the league despite his superstar status, and he has regularly taken far less money in salary so the Spurs could retain their championship persona by signing other great players.
Off the court, the Tim Duncan Foundation has been dedicated to giving back to the San Antonio community.
He has had a number of projects, including a charity bowling event designed to raise research money for prostate and breast cancer.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry has won back-to-back MVP Awards and has his team playing for the NBA championship for the second consecutive season.
His ability to hit long-distance shots has allowed him to become perhaps the greatest outside shooter in the history of the sport.
While accolades and headlines regularly come his way, Curry recognizes that playing basketball has given him an important opportunity to set an example for others to follow.
His Nothing But Nets campaign is a charitable endeavor which helps fight malaria by providing nets to protect families in Africa from the deadly disease.
“The Nothing But Nets campaign is an outstanding organization working to help a cause near and dear to my heart,” Curry told NBA.com. “I am honored to be in a position to help raise awareness for the campaign and provide nets to protect families from malaria for the fourth season in a row.”
He also hosts annual golf tournaments which are designed to raise money for scholarships that help out military personnel and their families.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade has been one of the top individual stars in the league, and he was also part of three championship teams with the Miami Heat and has averaged 23.7 points throughout his career that started in 2003-04.
But there's another side to Wade besides the player who can score points in bunches and has tasted championship glory.
He realizes that he is among the lucky few who can earn a living by playing professional sports and that most people will never get the opportunity to make a single dollar in that arena.
Wade understands that education is the way that most people will make it out of poor communities and become successful and that education begins with reading.
Encouraging people to read and supporting libraries has been a significant piece of his Wade's World Foundation.
Wade grew up in the poor community of Robins, Illinois, and he has donated his own money to help the library in that community remain viable.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is one of the top scorers in the NBA and one of its most explosive players. When Durant goes on a hot streak, he has proved his ability to carry the Oklahoma City Thunder on his shoulders.
Durant is averaging a monstrous 27.4 points per game in his career that started in 2007-08 in Seattle with the SuperSonics and moved to Oklahoma City when the franchise shifted its location.
Durant is all about basketball on the court, but the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation is one of his top priorities when he is not playing the game. This charity is designed to help at-risk youth from low-income families through education and social programs.
Durant has always wanted to help people, and that's something that he learned in his formative years.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Durant told Jan Hubbard of Success.com. “I learned that from my mother. But it elevated when I finally realized so many people were watching me—meeting different people, people sending me fan mail and saying I inspired them, saying our team inspired them when they were going through a tragedy—that meant a lot.”
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies plays the game the right way.
He has been recognized for his all-around sportsmanship on two occasions as he has won the Joe Dumars Trophy twice. Conley won the award after the 2013-14 season and again this year.
Conley joins Grant Hill (who won it three times) and Jason Kidd as the only multiple winners in the history of the trophy.
Former Memphis head coach Dave Joerger had praise for the way Conley conducts himself on and off the court.
"He's very deserving as just a wonderful human being, a class act on the court, the way he carries himself and certainly all the things he does in the community," Joerger told the AP after Conley earned the honor. "He plays the game the right way, and then he carries that over into the community."
Off the court, Conley is involved in raising money and awareness for the Methodist Healthcare Center, which is involved in Sickle Cell treatment.
On the court, Conley earned the award because of his "ethical" play and sportsmanship.
Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
The 35-year-old Pau Gasol has been an NBA mainstay since starting his career with the Memphis Grizzlies. He has since played with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Bulls. He has averaged 18.2 points per game in his career, and he has picked up two NBA championship rings during his run with the Lakers.
While his contributions on the court have been significant, he has also done quite a bit off the court when it comes to helping others.
The Spanish native has been his home country's UNICEF representative, and Gasol has partnered with the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and was also the recipient of 2012 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul is a remarkable on-court performer who is clearly one of the best point guards in the league. He has been dominating since his rookie season in 2005-06, and he has averaged 18.8 points per game and 9.9 assists throughout his career.
But while Paul may be a destroyer on the court, he is one of the game's nicest players off the court. He refurbished the basketball court in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and then he named the court after his late grandfather Nathaniel Jones.
Paul explained that his grandfather practiced charity throughout his life and was the first African-American service station owner in North Carolina. When a needy customer came in and said that he didn't have enough money to pay for gas, his grandfather would take care of him.
Paul does his own charitable work through the CP3 Foundation, which specializes in children's health and education.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
When it comes to finding a player who can rise to the moment, Damian Lillard is one of the NBA's rising stars.
Through his first four years, the Oakland, California, native is averaging 21.4 points during his career, and he helped the Blazers push the record-setting Golden State Warriors in this year's playoffs. Lillard averaged 31.8 points per game in that five-game series.
Lillard's most notable asset may be his loyalty, which manifested itself when the Oakland Rebels recruited him as a youngster to play for their AAU team. This was the lesser of the two AAU teams in the city, and Lillard was just a skinny youngster.
However, when he proved to be a superstar with game-changing talent, Oakland's other AAU team came calling. There was the allure of playing for a better team with sponsorships and free shoes, but Lillard stayed with the team that wanted him in the first place.
That set the tone for Lillard, and he has retained the characteristic of loyalty throughout his life.