The pair used their platforms and resources to bring attention to childhood hunger, social injustice and systemic racism across the country.
The NBA Cares Award is regarded as one of the most coveted honors that an NBA player can receive because finalists have chosen to dedicate their basketball career to a calling much greater than themselves.
For both the Mavericks and the NBA, the competition is always stiff because the league is woven with players dedicated to various organizations and causes around the world. The novel coronavirus and call for racial reform have created an atmosphere that makes this year’s award especially meaningful for players nominated by their organizations across the league.
“Our team is full of players who really care about the community,” said Hannah Sherertz, director of community relations for the Dallas Mavericks. “When it’s time to select our season finalists, we look at the totality of impact and influence during the season, and Kristaps and Dwight really set the standard this year.
“They truly made an enormous impact through various charitable efforts this season that created sustainable change and influence in the community.”
Two years ago, Powell established the Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas to provide guidance, education, and resources to help patients and their children cope with cancer. The program is the first-of-its-kind in the state of Texas because the fund is run by the social workers at the hospital and a need-based form would be given to the patients to determine who qualifies for aid.
During Powell’s second annual “A Night of Hope” gala last October, the event raised an astounding $750,000 for patients.
“The game of basketball has provided me a great deal and playing in this league has always been my dream,” Powell said, “but to be able to support families in their time of need and hopefully allow kids a chance to live their dreams themselves means so much more to me.”
Powell has also become a key figure for leadership across the NBA as a representative with the National Basketball Players Association, and he also sat on NBPA five-player committee that helped launch the NBA restart. Inside the NBA bubble, Powell was heavily involved in meetings during the players’ three-day strike to help formulate a plan to put social justice reform at the forefront of the league.
“The meetings that we’ve had were very productive,” Powell said. “All the players were very motivated. The conversations with the league and the ownership group were very motivated to find ways to actively bring change right now and for the future, going forward.”
Powell was also praised by NBPA president Chris Paul early in the NBA bubble for helping organize the Mavs’ social distance dance party that soon went viral. Paul said he immediately texted Powell when he saw the video.
“The more we have those different types of interactions and experiences, I think that the better we’ll make this,” Paul told reporters via Zoom.
A finalist for last season’s NBA Cares Community Season Award, Powell likely has a true shot to win this year’s honor because he’s emerged as a top voice and leader for players around the league.
“Everyone has things they feel strongly about, and I think as a league we’ve done a good job of supporting those voices,” Powell said. “And even if they may seem like outliers, it’s important for them to be able to speak their minds.
“That’s important for us as a league and a country as well to have that freedom to speak your mind.”
When the NBA season halted on March 11, Powell first served as a spokesman with the Mavericks to teach fans how to protect themselves from the coronavirus through various programs. Then he joined Paul and three other players to work on the league’s return to play.
From there, Powell became a key voice to amplify the message of players around the league once they entered the NBA bubble (Note: For more on Dwight Powell’s community contributions this season, click here).
Meanwhile, back in Dallas, Porzingis also played a pivotal role in the community this season and his commitment to childhood hunger will help feed thousands of North Texans left hungry in recent months.
At the tip-off of the 2019-20 season, Kristaps Porzingis committed to a new campaign dubbed #KrisStops, a nod to Kris “stopping” childhood hunger in North Texas.
Porzingis pledged a personal commitment of $500 per blocked shot to the Mavs Foundation to distribute to nonprofit organizations combatting hunger. When the playoffs rolled around, the Latvia native announced plans to keep the campaign going, and he ultimately donated nearly $60,000 this season.
Sherertz, who also serves as the director of the Mavs Foundation, said the donation would later play an even larger role than anyone would have known.
“Little did Kristaps know that come March, the needs of the North Texas community would significantly increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sherertz said. “His dollars meant even more to those in need of food, water and everyday essentials.”
In addition to his contribution based on blocks made during the season, Porzingis also encouraged fans to donate to the cause through an augmented reality larger than life campaign, with a chance to shoot on a virtual basketball hoop, all while trying to avoid being blocked by the Mavs’ 7-3 center/forward. At the conclusion of the video, fans were then introduced to #KrisStops, highlighting his fight to combat childhood hunger.
Sherertz said the #KrisStops campaigned ultimately raised $104,000 in funds that the Mavs Foundation will allocate to those most in need during the pandemic, specifically children battling hunger.
“As a result of school closures and changes in family income and schedules, many organizations have seen a heavy increase in need,” she shared.
When the NBA season was halted, Porzingis continued his efforts in serving those in need, as well as those who were serving on the front lines.
As part of “Feeding the Fight”, 4,830 meals were donated by Mark Cuban, CEO Cynt Marshall, head coach Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Powell, Porzingis, Seth Curry, Justin Jackson, Luka Dončić, Tim Haraway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Courtney Lee, Jalen Brunson, Boban Marjanović and the Mavs Foundation.
The group donated meals from local independent restaurants for healthcare workers and first responders.
Porzingis also has been a participant in the NBA’s Basketball without Borders, where he once again showed his passion for helping underserved youth. During these events Porzingis discussed seeing youths in need in his home country growing up, and that fueled his passion for helping those back home and also where he currently calls home.
Furthermore, during the Mavs Ball earlier this year, Porzingis helped raise over $1.1 million dollars after a private dinner with him accounted for $45,000 in total funds allocated to fight childhood hunger in the #KrisStops campaign.
Porzingis also hosted “Latvia Night” at a Dallas Mavericks game during the season and spent time meeting with fans from his home country.
“There is no question that Kristaps Porzingis possesses the giving mentality and believes in helping the youth for the future,” Sherertz said. “He has been not only a star on the court, but with the kids.
“The Dallas Mavericks organization is extremely proud to have someone like Kris represent our team and community.”
Story: Tamara Jolee, Dallas Mavericks Community Reporter
Photos: NBA Entertainment, Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks Digital