Dikembe Mutombo gives Los Angeles a two-for-one at NBA All-Star Fit Celebration
The All-Star center joined Felipe Lopez, Buddy Hield and Imani McGee-Stafford to dedicate a new court and teach a few drills
LOS ANGELES — When random individuals walk around an NBA event wagging their index fingers back and forth slowly, it’s safe to conclude it’s NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo’s signature move — and since it’s All-Star, it’s safe to say he’s probably somewhere nearby too.
That’s what happened on Thursday when the former NBA center and crowd favorite made his rounds volunteering at two events in less than four hours in Los Angeles as part of NBA All-Star Weekend.
After spending time at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, he traveled about 15 miles away for the NBA All-Star Fit Celebration, where After-School All-Stars joined forces with the NBA’s first health care partner, Kaiser Permanente, to dedicate a newly refurbished basketball court and fitness room at Alliance Gertz-Ressler/Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex.
“Being in the Los Angeles community today is very important,” Mutombo said.
Joined by Sacramento Kings guard and Rising Stars participant Buddy Hield, former NBA players Ron Harper and Felipe Lopez, Atlanta Dream center Imani McGee-Stafford and senior vice president and area manager at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Will Grice, Mutombo waved his finger for a good cause.
The team of current and former players hyped up a crowd of 200 students and divided them into groups, where Mutombo and company acted as coaches, overseeing short basketball drills and fitness activities on the indoor and outdoor courts. They also participated in food demonstrations by the students.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, McGee-Stafford is part of a basketball family, being the daughter of former WNBA player Pam McGee and sister of Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee. So staying fit is ingrained in her lifestyle.
“I grew up in L.A., so it’s always cool to have something in your hometown and it’s important to get kids active and make sure they understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle and knowing how to eat and just doing simple things every day,” McGee-Stafford said.
Lopez said participating in NBA Fit has been a wonderful experience, especially as a volunteer in the Los Angeles community.
“As in NBA All-Star, everybody thinks of the game. Obviously, the point of being around some of this community and being able to refurbish a basketball court is something that we take a lot of pride into,” he said. “I played in the NBA, but this is a work that I’m really more fascinated about because we are able to touch lives, and you can see it by the way of the kids and how excited they are.”
Hield threw a few dunks into the basket on the new court as the children learned layups and passing skills under his watch.
“[Being here today] means a lot,” he said. “I come from the Bahamas. Now I’m here, and giving back is a blessing. God has blessed me to do that. To come out and to take the time out to play with the kids means a lot to them and creates memories of a lifetime.”
Alliance Gertz-Ressler/Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex is one of After-School All-Stars’ 52 sites in Los Angeles. The recent renovations at the location include a state-of-the-art outdoor sport court installation accommodating all kinds of play, including basketball and volleyball. The outdoor space will also introduce over-fence netting to prevent ball loss and a windscreen to create privacy and protection from the school’s urban environment. Indoors, monitors and speakers will improve the workout room experience, and there’s fresh paint in the school’s gym as well as new pads and mats to support floor fitness activities, such as dance, yoga and cheer.
Thanks to NBA Cares, this total fitness space renovation will enable After-School All-Stars to more effectively support students to achieve health and fitness goals as well as benefit the Alliance for College-Ready Public School community at large.
After-School All-Stars is a leading nonprofit in comprehensive after-school programs for low-income middle school youths. The organization teamed up with the NBA and NBA Cares as an official charity partner for All-Star Weekend 2018 in Los Angeles.
On Feb. 7, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, one of this year’s All-Star captains, selected After School All-Stars as his team’s charity of choice. The winner of this year’s NBA All-Star Game will donate $350,000 toward its selected organization, while the losing team will donate $150,000 to its chosen charity.
After-School All-Stars and NBA Cares have partnered on fitness projects since 2014 to serve the organization’s 73,000 students across 351 schools and 19 markets. The organization and NBA Cares have teamed up again and selected one of the Los Angeles school sites, Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School/Gertz-Ressler Academy High School, to receive a gym and fitness facility renovation. The Title 1 school’s facilities will be transformed, achieving the goal of supporting youths to lead healthy, active lives.
Since 2015, the NBA and Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated health system and the official health care partner of the NBA, have hosted more than 30 FIT clinics, engaging more than 3,500 youths in local communities around the United States.
Kaiser Permanente serves as the health care expert and strategic consultant for the NBA on health and wellness initiatives, including the yearlong NBA FIT program.