The day before the 2017 NBA draft, many of the top prospects came together for a Jr. NBA basketball clinic and NBA Cares packing project at Hunter College in New York City.
Kids and teens from Basketball City, Dual Language Middle School, and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors all participated alongside a group of rising stars that included Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, and De’Aaron Fox—all of whom would be drafted in the top five the following evening.
Said Fox, who went to Kentucky, “This means so much to me. I am not much older than the kids here. It’s just a blessing to be able to give back to the community.”
The draftees were split into two groups and took turns coaching kids through a series of basketball drills on one floor. On another floor, they joined an assembly line to pack bags and create cards for U.S. troops stationed overseas.
The players were in their element at the basketball drills clinic. The kids were thrilled to interact with some of their favorite players, who were clearly having a great time. Fultz played an intense game of keep-away, while former Texas player Jarrett Allen taught the kids how to perfect defensive slides.
The packing and card project brought former rivals together for community service. Luke Kennard, from Duke, sat with Justin Jackson, from the University of North Carolina, creating colorful cards and handwritten messages thanking members of the military for their service. Pac-12 rival point guards Fultz, who went to Washington, and Ball, who went to UCLA, also sat together at the same table to show off their card design-talents.
These athletes, who seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves, showed the kids in attendance the importance of giving back. If this NBA Cares project was any indication of what the future holds for this draft class, the players will be setting positive examples both on an off the court for years to come.
Photographs by Max Bonnstetter