Mavs players discuss and react to Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact and legacy on MLK Day

Harrison Barnes addresses the crowd ahead of MLK Day

Mavs forward Harrison Barnes addressed the crowd ahead of Saturday's game against the Lakers to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ahead of MLK Day!

DALLAS – One of the most iconic figures in the world will be honored today when America observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Dr. King was a civil rights leader who spent the lion’s share of his life fighting for equality. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality by using non-violence, and has often been celebrated for inspiring peace and unity.

“Martin Luther King is like a super hero, because without him I wouldn’t be able to sit right here and give y’all this interview, or even be in (the NBA) and put my family in the position that they’re in now,” Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said. “He’s done a lot.”

Mavs center Dwight Powell also is appreciative of Dr. King, who touched a country from his distinguished ‘I Have A Dream’ speech to his many marches in search of equal rights.

“We’re forever indebted to him and the people around him and his family for the things that they did — all the people in the (Civil Rights) Movement at that time,” Powell said. “They gave up a lot and they risked everything for the next generations.

“They saw some change in their time, but not nearly as much as they deserved. So we’ve got to pay homage to him and pay homage to them for their sacrifice and the price they paid for us to have the life that we have now.”

The following are the thoughts of the African-American players on the Mavs’ squad — in their own words — about Dr. King and his legacy:

HARRISON BARNES

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: I have a lot of respect for Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment to fighting for equality in the community. I think when you look at everything that’s going on now in our society – whether it’s Black Lives Matter or whether it’s a protest – we’re still fighting for the same issue, as sad as that is. I think he was definitely just wise beyond his time.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He gave his life for the cause. He put himself out there. He knew it was going to be tough, especially the way that blacks were treated back then. There are some parallels to how blacks are still mistreated now — the gap that we still need to close in terms of equality. But he did all of that in the face of diversity. I think that’s commendable, and you have respect and honor his legacy by continuing that work.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I’m sure he would be happy in some regards and disappointed in others. A lot of the things that he was fighting for and championing and trying to get people to be aware of, we’re still fighting for today, all these years later. I’m sure he can’t be happy about that.

SETH CURRY

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: Obviously he was a great person. He put a lot on the line and sacrificed a lot for the movement for African-Americans and just people in general in this country to make it a better place. It’s good to see the NBA and people all around the league paying respects to him.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: Obviously he knew his life was in danger. People tried to burn his house down. He knew his life was in danger on a daily basis because of the stance he was taking and what he was trying to do in this country, but he never wavered in his commitment to the cause.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I don’t think he would be happy with where (this country is) right now. Obviously we have a long ways to go as a country and as a place. But I think he probably would be proud to see some of the things that athletes and other people are doing to try to help the cause and make the country a better place.

YOGI FERRELL

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: The only thing I can say is he’s just inspirational, and (we’re) carrying on what he wanted. He saw a bigger picture. He looked into the future and saw where this nation and this world needed to go. So he just strived for equality for everybody, and I’m just thankful for him so I could be able to be here playing in Dallas, in this great league. He definitely paved the way for many African-Americans.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: That just means whatever you want in life you’ve got to make sacrifices for it and you’ve got to not do some things that you want to do in order achieve what you want to achieve. I’ve learned from that. That’s how I got here. I sacrificed a lot and stayed the course when things aren’t going to go your way. Obviously for him, being thrown in jail, that’s different. Bad things happened to him, he stayed his course because he saw the future and what he wanted.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: He would probably say it’s definitely gotten a lot better. A lot of people would recognize him as one of those influential leaders that paved the way. But I feel like he still, even to this day, would probably be trying to fight for equality for everybody, not just for African-Americans.

DORIAN FINNEY-SMITH

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He was a great public figure for us growing up learning about him at school and all he gave for this world. He’s one of the people where, if I could have three people that I could sit at the table and have a conversation with, he’s definitely one of the guys I’d like to have a conversation with.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He put his life on the line. He was fearless. He didn’t do it with violence. He just wanted to peacefully change the world. Bless him and I’m just thankful for everything he did.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I think he would be happy for how much change has been since he was here. But there’s still a lot more that we can do.

DEVIN HARRIS

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He’s definitely a historical figure who was fighting for our rights. Our ability to do what we do today, I think, is heavily on him and the group that marched for our equality, and I don’t think we celebrate him enough. I think there’s more that we can do, but I think we need to educate ourselves more to find our heritage and find out where we came from.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He truly believed in what he was preaching. I don’t think a lot of us would be here and doing what we’re doing and living this fantastic life that we have without somebody like him that really fought for what he believed in.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I think we always can do better, we always can strive to be better. I think he believed in that. I don’t think we can settle for where we are. We’ve got to grow together as a country.

WESLEY MATTHEWS

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He means a lot. For us to even be able to talk to each other right now, he means hope, he means progress. But it also means that we’ve got a lot of work to do, still, as a community and as a country.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: Who knows? As a black man I’m thankful that he did (make those sacrifices). I’m thankful that all those who were involved did as well. It’s kind of crazy to say this, but he could foresee the future.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I don’t really know how happy he would be, but we still have gone very far. And I’m very humble, very grateful for all the sacrifices that he and everybody that fought in the Civil Rights Movement — black, white — everybody that helped get us to this point, everybody that picked up the torch and continue to run with it. And again, it’s bigger than just black people. It’s black, white, everybody involved. But we’ve got a long ways to go. We can get there, but we’ve got to work, too.

JOHNATHAN MOTLEY

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He’s meant a lot. He did a lot of revolutionary things and he changed the way the country looks at different cultures. He meant a lot to the country, diversity-wise.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He made a lot of sacrifices, especially going the non-violent route. I think that’s just a testament to his character and everything he stands for, especially him going through all he went through and being able to stay non-violent. He gave his life for the cause, so that’s a testament to what type of character and the type of guy he was.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: He would probably be on the same route still trying to change things, still trying to make some strides to make the country even greater and make it even more equal than it is today. I think his work probably never stops. It’ll keep going and keep pushing.

NERLENS NOEL

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He means a lot to me just knowing the history and knowing how much he’s done for African-Americans and young African-Americans like myself. Just the whole foundation of freedom and the rights that we’re deserving to have – going back to the slavery days. I’m really appreciative of everything he’s done. Malcolm X, Rosa Parks – the really iconic people. And the people that weren’t as iconic. So it’s all really something to be honored for.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: You never really know how it could have been if he wasn’t in the position he was in. I think things were meant to be and he was meant to live for a purpose of just changing the culture of America in the ’60s, and he really stepped forward to be that face and really took all that punishment and all the backlash he did to put us where we are.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I definitely say he’d say it’s progression. You look at it and you see young individuals like myself that weren’t as blessed as they were when he was alive, so it’s been a lot of progression. I think gains are being made, but there’s still a long ways to go. But I think as long as it’s a conversation and the gap is closing, we’re headed in the right direction.

DWIGHT POWELL

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He might be one of the most influential figures in our history. His legacy obviously lives on and the dream that he had is still something that we’re fighting for every day. He made a lot of change in this country for the better, and I think we — all around the world — are forever indebted to him for what he did. If the change didn’t take place when it did and how it did, I don’t think the opportunities that a lot of us have been provided in this generation would be available to us, just because the climate would be different and things would be different.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He set a great example as far as what it means to serve and what it means to be selfless and give up some of what a lot of people think is their right in life. He gave up a lot just to have his voice heard and he made a lot of sacrifices – him and his family. He took a lot of risks to make this world a better place. I think we can take that as an example of how to live life, which is to serve others and to be an example for the next generation and influence change where it’s needed, regardless of the price.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I think he would be definitely happy in comparison to where (this country has) been, but he would still probably be fighting for continued progress and continued change. I think he would still be a major voice for the people and try to improve situations for minorities and for majorities and for everyone, really. I think he would be still fighting for progress.

DENNIS SMITH JR.

WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: “I think Martin Luther King is definitely a hero. Without Martin Luther King I wouldn’t even be in this position I am now to play in this league. Just the sacrifices that he made are very important to everybody, not just black people. I think (it’s important) to the entire world. He showed everybody what true equality means. He was a very just man. I don’t think just giving him one day is really celebrating how much he’s done for everybody.

WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: A lot of that stuff, it’s hard to appreciate all of that. He’s one of the greatest men for our country’s history. I don’t think all his accomplishments can ever be fully appreciated. He died for this moment right here, for a lot of guys to be in unity.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: He would be thrilled. Of course, everything is not perfect. Racism is still alive, but just the strides that were made from then to now is incredible, and I think it’s in large part due to him. The world ain’t perfect yet – probably never will be. But if he was here today I’m sure he’d be happy with the strides that’s been made.

A Day of Giving

DALLAS –A recent whirlwind day that started with Dallas Mavericks centers/forwards Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber spreading Christmas cheer at Children’s Medical Center ended with guard Wesley Matthews collecting coats, blankets and other warm weather items at three different Raising Cane’s restaurants.

In between, Powell joined guard Devin Harris at Burlington Coat Factory inside Southwest Center Mall as each player donated $2,500 to Pay Away The Layaway to pay off the layaways for nearly 20 families.

First, Powell and Kleber got the very busy day underway when they played games and interacted with the kids at Children’s Medical Center. And don’t for a minute think the kids were the only ones having a jolly good time.

“On a scale from 1-to-10, it was an 11,” Powell said, when asked how much fun he was having. “To spend time with these kids playing games, it’s been a humbling experience just to see how happy they are and how they’re taking full advantage of all the things that they have in their lives and enjoying the holidays regardless of any situation.”

“I’m really grateful to be able to come spend some time with the kids. I really hope it has a positive impact on them because it’s had a humongous positive impact on me.”

One of the patients, 16-year old John Salmeron, said of the appearance by Powell and Kleber: “I think it’s real nice because it brings a lot of hope and joy to the kids, because a lot of them aren’t able to actually go out and experience this and meet actual famous people.”

“I think it’s going to have a good impact on them by knowing that people actually care, especially people who are so famous.”

Kleber realizes the importance of being a positive influence in the community. That’s why he was all-in when asked to go to the Children’s Medical Center.

“We’re smaller celebrities, I would say, so I think if we can help, they really appreciate it and they look up to us,” Kleber said. “We’re professionals and I think we represent ourselves on the court and it’s important to see that we also do it off the court, and I think for kids to see that, hopefully we can cheer them up a little bit.”

The children even taught Kleber how to play a few games.

“I learned a lot of different games, I was pretty bad at everything and I lost a lot of them, but it was fun,” Kleber said. “I don’t have a PlayStation at home, or an Xbox, but I learned today how to do it.”

Thresa Blecher, the director of social work and child life children’s health, liked the energy Powell and Kleber brought when they arrived at the hospital.

“Having the Mavs here is really exciting for our patients,” Blecher said. “It’s no fun to be in the hospital at any time, and especially during the holidays when they’re normally out of school and able to play.”

“So this allows them some entertainment and excitement and gives them something to look forward to during their sometimes boring hospital stay. It’ll be something they brag about to their friends and to their family members.”

After spending time at the Children’s Medical Center, Powell hopped in his car and drove through rush-hour traffic to Southwest Center Mall in South Oak Cliff. It’s there where he joined Harris to pay off some layaway for some families who are in need.

“It’s an opportunity to help people have a little bit better holiday, as far as taking care of their layaway and getting some gifts for the kids,” Powell said. “It’s a blessing to be able to be in this position to help out and it’s always fun to come interact and meet these guys and try to put a smile on their faces.”

Lillie Mae Turman definitely left Burlington with all smiles. She has a 16-month old grandson who is growing out of his clothes as soon as he gets them, which can be costly.

So the financial assistance from Powell and Harris was a major boost for Turman’s family.

“One by one they called us up by name and the players gave us a shopping cart of our items and hugged every single person and took pictures,” Turman said. “Dwight gave a beautiful speech and explained to us how much this meant to them.”

“I just can’t believe this. I’ve put gifts on layaway my entire life and this has never happened to me. I just want to say I am just very grateful, and Go Mavs!”

This is the second time Harris has taken part in the Pay Away The Layaway program.

“We really enjoyed it, so we definitely wanted to come back and do it again,” Harris said. “Any time during the holidays we can help the less fortunate and try to brighten up their holiday season, we’re all for it.”

The contributions from Powell and Harris certainly brought great joy to Yahtiese Ryder, who has four kids that likes to keep up with the latest trends. Ryder has two jobs trying to make ends meet, and one day got a call from a Burlington representative who told her she needed to come to the store in regards to her layaway plan.

“Then I arrived and saw other people in the line, and you could just feel something special was about to happen,” Ryder said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up though, because I’ve never been the lucky one to have anything done for me.”

“So me and my 4-year-old, Keith, stood with the other families and waited for what would happen. Then all of a sudden Mavericks’ players Devin Harris and Dwight Powell came down with a big surprise and told us: ‘All of your layaway gifts have been paid for. You can take home all your things today because we paid for the entire bill!’ Everyone just started clapping!”

Andrew Willoughby, the store manager at Burlington, said: “The holidays are particularly hard for a lot of our customers. And I think it’s really great that the Mavericks partnered with Pay Away The Layaway to help our customers that in a lot of cases Christmas wouldn’t be the same if they wouldn’t have this partnership.”

“This is one of the most exciting days on the job for me to just see people’s Christmas being made.”

Matthews rounded out the Mavs’ very active day by collecting coats, blankets and other warm items for the less fortunate at three separate Raising Cane’s restaurants. The long day was a no-brainer for Matthews.

“Every time I want to improve any community that I’m in, because I feel like that’s the job not only of athletes, but of people in general,” Matthews said. “You want to better your community and you always start with the youth.”

“You’ve got to give them a chance to take over this world in a positive way and in a great way.”

In addition to collecting warm clothing, Matthews also took time to work the restaurants’ cash registers and drive-through windows.

“My favorite quote was: ‘What’s kicking, you want some chicken,’ “ Matthews asked, while laughing. “I have a newfound respect for fast food.”

“I’ve never had fun smelling like chicken fingers before, but I smell delicious right now.”

Brandon Quinn, the general manger of one of the Raising Cane’s, enjoyed the way Matthews readily engaged with the restaurants’ employees.

“To see somebody of his abilities and stature with the Mavericks and in the Dallas community, and to come and work side-by-side with the crew and to see the community as well, it goes a long way,” Quinn said. “A big thank you to the Mavericks, a big thank you for them to come out here to the White Rock Lake area where we are, and to come to all three locations in general.”

Indeed, it was a very long and busy day for the Mavs.

Last Wish Granted

DALLAS – Unless a miracle occurs, John Thomas knows he’s in the final chapter of his life.

Thomas has stage 4 kidney cancer, and doctors have given him about four months left to live. But as he battles this insidious disease, Thomas had one last wish.

He wanted to attend a Dallas Mavericks game for the very first time.

A few emails and phone calls later, there was Thomas, not only sitting near the floor at the Mavs’ game with his wife and two daughters. But he also delivered the prestigious game ball to the referees prior to the Mavs’ contest against the Phoenix Suns this past Monday.

“This is a great honor,” Thomas said. “I can’t explain it.”

“It means that the Mavs love me very much to have to go through what they went through to give me this.”

Sherry Chapman went through hoops trying to help their father’s dying wish of attending a Mavs’ game come true.

“My mom called me on Sunday and asked me if there’s any way I can get him to a Mavericks game,” Chapman said. “It bugged me until I e-mailed (Mavs owner) Mark Cuban to see if there’s anything that he could do, but I didn’t think in a million years that he would have emailed me back.”

“But when he did, I was so excited. It just made me cry.”

Thomas was in tears, too. Especially after his name was shown on the Jumbotron at American Airlines Center.

With the nod from Cuban, Steve Letson (the vice-president of operations for the Mavs) and Mike Mattocks (the director of corporate sponsorships for the Mavs), got the ball rolling to make the inquiry by Thomas become true.

“I gave (Chapman) a call and she told me about her father, who has cancer and only has four months to live,” Letson said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry and let’s try to do something special for him.’”

“Before the game we do the Texas Oncology Game Ball Delivery and it’s typically a cancer survivor or somebody suffering from cancer. So I asked Mike Mattocks, who oversees that program, if we can schedule this gentleman for (the Phoenix game), and we juggled it around and made it happen.”

When the Mavs went the extra mile and had Thomas deliver the game ball, his oldest daughter, Kendra Thomas, said: “I got cold chills. I told him, I said, ‘Daddy your name is going to be on the scoreboard, you’re going to get to walk the game ball out.’

“He got tears in his eyes. This means the world to him.”

It also meant the world to Thomas’ wife of 32 years.

“This is amazing, and I am so glad that he gets to be here,” Lillie Thomas said. “I appreciate all that the Mavs have done.”

The Mavs were as delighted to make the request happen for Thomas as the recipient himself.

“I think it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do something like that for somebody who’s going through something like he is, especially when he’s only given three or four months to live,” Letson said. “We try to go the extra length all the time for people in those cases, and this seems to be the perfect fit because he’d never been to a Mavericks game before, and for him to actually be on the floor with his daughters, to be able to watch the players warm up and come out and high-five them, and then be able to give the game ball, I think it was special for him.”

“And I’m just glad that Texas Oncology and our corporate department have this program in place that we were able to fit him in to do this. I think it worked out.”

John Thomas is currently a patient at Community Hospice of Texas.

“He’s doing pretty good,” Chapman said. “He’s taking it day by day.”

The patients and staff at Community Hospice of Texas sat around the television sets to watch John Thomas’ big moment when he delivered the game ball before the Suns-Mavs game. For John Thomas, it was akin to being a big man on campus occasion.

“He loves basketball and he especially loves the Mavericks,” Kendra Thomas said. “He said that he wanted to go see the Mavericks one more time, and here we are.”

Letson said Texas Oncology usually schedules their Game Ball Delivery weeks in advance, but made a special arrangement for John Thomas. Also, the Thomas’ had purchased upper level tickets for the game against the Suns, and the Mavs got them much closer to the court.

“His last wish was just to come to a game,” Letson said. “We were happy to do it.

“It’s always a pleasure to try to help anybody in need like that.”

In the Suns-Mavs game itself, John Thomas was glad he could get so close to his favorite player, forward Dirk Nowitzki.

“I love to watch the man do that fade away,” Thomas said. “The man is an all-around athlete.”

In an emotional moment, John Thomas then expressed gratitude for how the Mavs went out of their way to treat him and his family like royalty.

“I love the Mavericks,” John Thomas said. “Giving out the game ball, that’s the ultimate experience for me.”

Yogi Ferrell as Long Lost Big Brother to Foster Kids

DALLAS – As he was contemplating how he was going to spread some holiday cheer this year, at the very least Yogi Ferrell wanted to create a watershed moment for some disadvantaged kids.

So the Dallas Mavericks guard developed a very unique concept. He decided to host 15 foster care kids from Methodist Children’s Home and treat them to a special day of decorating cookies and watching a Christmas movie this past Sunday at the luxury Cirque Apartment Homes, which are located across the street from American Airlines Center.

The kids also received a tour of the Mavs’ new AAC locker room, and, in addition, were fortunate enough to play some basketball on the team’s underground practice court. It was a day that even Ferrell treasured.

“I knew I wanted to do something this Christmas,” Ferrell said. “I felt like, especially the platform that I’m on now and being in a great city like Dallas and with the way the fans come out and support us, I just wanted to give back.”

“So I decided to bake cookies with kids, watch a movie and then after that just give them a tour of the arena. I’m trying to just brighten up their day and make memories for them.”

After watching the movie, The Polar Express, and touring the Mavs’ swanky locker room, some of the kids were able to shoot some basketball with Ferrell. While calmly draining one jumper after another, Ferrell smiled and jokingly told 13-year old Nas Glasper that he (Glasper) was “about to go viral.”

Glasper’s response to the friendly trash-talking from Ferrell?

“He thought he could get me, but I was like, ‘I can’t have that happen,’ “ Glasper said. “I did pretty good for my age.”

An eighth grader at Liberty Junior High School in Richardson, Glasper summed up the four-hour experience he and his friends spent hanging out with Ferrell as life-changing.

“It inspired me to do better in basketball so I can live this kind of life,” Glasper said. “I like the court and I like the practice room. I saw where they go and change, and I think it’s pretty cool.”

Karri Luna, a child foster case worker from Methodist Children’s Home, also though it was “pretty cool” for Ferrell to reach out to help those kids who are less fortunate.

“We made some calls to our foster parents and they came through and made sure the kiddos could be here,” Luna said. “The kids were very, very excited and thrilled to be chosen to be able to come here.”

That excitement was evident as the kids interacted with Ferrell as if he was their long lost big brother.

“For the kids this is great,” Luna said. “They don’t get many opportunities to do something like this.”

“These kids just come from hard places and they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Ferrell’s father, Kevin Ferrell, said Sunday’s entire concept was nearly hatched following an over-night brain-storming session that he had with his popular son.

“We were just trying to figure out a way to kind of be a little different,” Kevin Ferrell said. “We wanted to do something that we thought might touch the hearts of the kids.”

“We wanted to have something kind of personal and I’m hoping the kids can leave with an experience like no other. Sometimes you fingerprint somebody’s brain and it stays there forever.”

Additionally, Kevin Ferrell pointed out something that didn’t go unnoticed. And that is, Yogi Ferrell – graciously listed on the Mavs’ roster as six feet tall – isn’t much taller than some of the kids he was hosting on Sunday.

“Being a small guard, and the kids are small as well, Yogi is relatable,” Kevin Ferrell said. “Maybe they can walk away with an experience and say: ‘If Yogi can do it, I can do it, too.’ “

“This is just an opportunity, and they can walk away with the experience of meeting somebody like-minded and take a good experience away with them.”

For his part, Yogi Ferrell simply wanted to use his celebrity status to influence a group of kids in a positive way. He wanted to help shape the lives of some kids who are at a disadvantage.

“This didn’t have to be extravagant and it didn’t have to have a lot of kids,” Yogi Ferrell said. “It’s all about just trying to reach individuals’ hearts.”

“I feel like something like this will teach kids to just have good character. And I feel like they’re going to want to help other people just as we’re putting on this event for them so they can go out and do good deeds in the world.”

Certainly, Luna is very appreciative of the good deed Yogi Ferrell did for a group of kids who haven’t gotten a fair shake at life. Indeed, all of their struggles were put on the backburner for four glorious hours this past Sunday – thanks to Yogi Ferrell.

“For the kids that are interacting with (Yogi), they’ll never forget this,” Luna said. “They’ll have this memory and it’ll hopefully impact them in some positive ways.”

Harrison Barnes Gives the Gift of Basketball

DALLAS – Harrison Barnes often talks about the time when he was completely in awe when former National Basketball Association guard B.J. Armstrong paid a visit to the Boys & Girls Club in Iowa which Barnes attended.

Armstrong meticulously signed some autographs, took some pictures and, quite frankly, left an indelible impression on Barnes and his fellow Boys & Girls Club comrades that will last a lifetime.

Fast forward approximately 18 years later, and Barnes now finds himself as the famous NBA player who’s leaving indelible impressions that will last a lifetime. That’s what occurred recently when the Dallas Mavericks’ forward dedicated a brand new basketball court at the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club.

This was one of those teachable pay-it-forward moments by Barnes, who recalls how that appearance by Armstrong changed his perspective on life.

“I always remember the people that were older than me, were accomplished and always gave back, and that set with me,” Barnes said. “It was, ‘Ok, if I ever make it, or if I ever have a chance to have the means to give back, then I could be able to do that.’ “

“And I think that’s how it’s come full circle – those people raised their hands up and helped me get to where I am, and now I can do the same thing for the next generation.”

Besides the Court Dedication ceremony where Barnes’ good deeds were amplified, the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club was transformed into what was sufficiently described as “Harrison’s Workshop.” It became a place where the kids displayed their arts and crafts, baking and decorating skills.

In addition, the major prize(s) – other than the new basketball court – was that all 150 kids received a Christmas present, with Barnes footing the bill. And it was a present that the kids themselves put on their wish-list.

Following the wishes of Barnes, Cherri Rowe and three other Boys & Girls Club executives went shopping for the gifts.

“We went to Target and we shopped about three hours,” said Rowe, the vice-president of programs for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas. “But honestly it was so much fun, the time went by so fast and we were excited to just get these gifts for the kids.”

“We had the kids make a wish-list and we were able to get every single item that was on their wish-list.”

All 11-year old Kiera Green wanted was a mini-hockey machine. And she got one.

“This is a great Christmas for me,” Green said. “I like that I can play it against people and play it with my family.”

“I want to say thank you for choosing this club and we had a great time. (My friends) said they love their presents.”

Ci’Andria Jefferson, the director of the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club, was very appreciative of the kindness Barnes displayed during this holiday season.

“This has been an amazing experience for our entire club,” Jefferson said. “For the kids to actually have someone care enough about them and know that they’re good kids and that they’re hard workers and that their environment doesn’t dictate who they are and what they can become, this has just been overwhelmingly exciting.”

One room at the Boys & Girls Club was packed with toys, and it was a surreal moment for Barnes.

“Just to be able to see the excitement on these kids’ faces, to come back and to give these guys a gym, I know how important it was for me to have a gym growing up, especially at the Boys and Girls Club,” Barnes said. “Hopefully this will be a great stepping stone for them, not only just to see a nice court to go out and play on, but to see that somebody cares about them.”

Santa Claus cares about kids, too, and was on hand to assist Barnes.

“It’s always a joy to come out and put smiles on kids’ face and watch them come and grab gifts,” said Santa Claus, who grew up in the West Dallas Boys & Girls Club. “On a rating from 1 to 10, it’s an 11 for me.”

“Some of these kids come from a rough past, and just to be able to put a smile on their face for just five seconds, that’s all I need right there.”

Barnes’ wife, Brittany Barnes, also attended the event and offered some encouraging words.

“Any opportunity to give back through the holidays is always a blessing,” Brittany Barnes said. “And since we’ve been so blessed with the ability to give back to the community, give back to kids, and give back to places like the Boys and Girls Club, that means a lot to Harrison.”

“We’re happy to be able to provide an assortment of things for the kids.”

An assortment of things and memories that will last a lifetime.

“I’m overwhelmed with excitement, overwhelmed with joy, overwhelmed with thanks,” Jefferson said. “This is a little community that needs to see this type of love.”

“It blows my mind and I really honestly cannot thank God enough for (Harrison and Brittany Barnes) and the hearts that they have. I’m going to cry. This has been a blessing for me, the club and the families.”

Honoring Wounded Military with Seats for Soldiers

Seats for Soldiers 2017

Check out a recap of Seats for Soldiers Night, where season ticket holders give up their courtside seats to wounded military and veterans!

DALLAS – Since he’s a native of Dallas, Claymore Kwaramba expressed great joy in being one of the wounded service members chosen to participate in the Dallas Mavericks’ 13th annual Seats For Soldiers night.

The event, hosted by the Mavs, American Airlines and Nick & Sam’s, allowed over 150 wounded service members from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to join reserve troops in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and sit courtside at the December 4 game between the Mavs and Denver Nuggets. American Airlines provided round-trip charter transportation for the wounded service members from San Antonio to Dallas, and Nick & Sam’s provided a delicious four-course pre-game meal.

Meanwhile, Mavs season-ticket holders graciously gave up their courtside seats – valued at over $350,000 – so the soldiers could enjoy a grand night out on the town.

And as an added bonus, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, sat courtside amongst the troops and took photos with them at halftime.

“It’s truly, truly a blessing for everything that the Mavericks do on behalf of all the troops, especially the wounded warriors,” Kwaramba said. “Just for one day to be able to just go out and experience NBA basketball right at courtside, you don’t get any better than this.”

“That was truly, truly appreciated and God bless the Mavericks for that.”

The Seats For Soldiers concept is the brainchild of season-ticket holder Neal Hawks, who encouraged other courtside season-ticket holders to donate their seats to the soldiers.

“Everybody wanted to get involved,” said Don Knobler, who has donated his courtside seats for the past seven years. “Normally you wouldn’t want to give up your front row seats, but for the people that fight and work for our country, the least we can do is give them our seats for one game.”

“We’re delighted to do it and they enjoy it.”

Soldier Robert Rupar said the Seats For Soldiers event is at the top of the soldiers’ to-do list.

“They plan this thing out months ahead and they actually fight each other almost,” Rupar said. “They’re fighting wars, and they’ll come here and they’re fighting to get on this trip to go (to Dallas).”

Israel Del Toro, who was severely injured in Afghanistan in December of 2005, came to his first Seats For Soldiers event in 2006 and has enjoyed every minute of it.

“I went until 2008, because by that time I started getting stronger and I started doing other things,” Del Toro said. “This year American Airlines and the Dallas Mavericks asked me to come back, go to the game and talk to these guys and share my experiences.”

American Airlines pilots and flight attendants eagerly volunteered their time to transport the wounded service members from and back to San Antonio.

“One thing that’s most important about doing this for the soldiers is it’s our gift back,” American Airlines captain/pilot Steven Holmstrom said. “Their gift to us is incalculable, so this is just a small something we can do to give back to them.”

“The experiences we get out of serving these folks last a lifetime.”

Holmstrom just finished his third Seats For Soldiers tour, while flight attendants Rosanna Dillow-Swacker and Debbie Campbell were finishing their first.

“My husband is a captain in the Navy and I’m used to telling the guys, when we would land state-side from the war, to never forget that they are what’s good and right about our country,” Dillow-Swacker said. “They inspire all of us to become better people.”

Campbell concurred.

“I’m so honored to be a part of this,” she said. “I know the sacrifices that these men and women have made for their country and what their families have gone through, and I’m just in awe to be able to do this for them.”

Upon arrival at DFW Airport, the plane with the wounded services members was honored with a prestigious water cannon salute. From there, they went to Nick & Sam’s for a delectable pre-game meal.

“I’m just giving back,” said Samir Dhurandhar, the corporate executive chef and partner of Nick & Sam’s. “I don’t get an opportunity to give back a lot, especially for the troops, so this is the least I can do for them.”

One of the highlights for the wounded service members occurred during a timeout of the Nuggets-Mavs game when the sellout crowd gave them a thunderous standing ovation.

“Some moments are just hard to describe in words, and that was just one of those moments,” Kwaramba said. “I was speechless, and I was looking around at some of my friends and I could just see guys getting teary-eyed.”

After the game the Mavs players, coaches and owner Mark Cuban signed autographs and took pictures with the wounded service members. It was an emotional scene.

On observing the special elaborate event, Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said: “Something like this keeps you humble. You’ve got people out here that sacrifice a lot – including limbs.”

“It makes you appreciate the little things.”

The troops thanked all of those who made this magical night happen.

“Everyone was wonderful, the fans were great, they hosted us well, great hospitality and they gave us first-class treatment,” Kwaramba said. “It’s not every day you get courtside tickets from people who were just willing to honor what we do in serving our country, so it’s a blessing.”

Dinner with Santa: Spreading Holiday Cheer

Dinner with Santa presented by Walmart

Check out a recap of the Mavs and 50 kids from Rainbow Days and the Family Place having dinner with Santa!

DALLAS — As part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving, the Mavs unequivocally spread some holiday cheer by hosting 50 kids from Rainbow Days and the Family Place. Walmart graciously supplied each kid with a bag full of presents, and the Oak restaurant provided the space and complimentary dinner for the kids.

As Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews examined the electric atmosphere at the Oak restaurant recently when the Mavs hosted a Dinner With Santa event, he couldn’t help but reflect on what this all means in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s a chance to give these kids a chance to smile and make their day, make their year possibly, and make their week,” Matthews said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

“I always try to be grateful, but doing stuff like this and seeing it first-hand, it just makes me really grateful for the good, the bad, everything.”

All of the Mavs players were on hand for the festivities. Also present were the ManiAACs, the Mavericks Dancers, the Mavs’ mascot – Champ – and the team’s newest member, a guide dog for the blind puppy –in-training named Swish.

While the under-privileges kids obviously thoroughly enjoyed themselves, so did the Mavs players.

“You’re spending time with kids that never get to spend nights like this,” guard J. J. Barea said. “The kids had great food, they spent some time with us, and we get to know more about our teammates.”

“I found out a lot about my new teammates – the way they were enjoying it, the way they were participating with the kids. It was awesome and it says a lot about this team.”

Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. acknowledged that the night brought back memories from when he was just a kid.

“There are a lot of kids that are in poverty in my neighborhood (in Fayetteville, N.C.) – some people I grew up with,” Smith said. “This is something that keeps me humble.”

“You’ve got kids looking up to you, and you want to be a role model for them. So it’s a lot of fun for me to do events like this.”

The Mavs even played some friendly games with the kids. And guess who won their share of games?

“For me, my takeaway is probably the challenge of playing Tic-Tac-Toe,” guard Devin Harris said. “These kids are really good!”

“We had a couple of losses in there.”

Events like Dinner With Santa always bring out the kid in forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was grinning from ear-to-ear every time he had a chance to interact with the kids.

“It’s fun to see the smiles and their passion,” Nowitzki said. “Opening up the gifts is the highlight. They’re all fired up.”

“One kid actually didn’t like his gift, so we switched it and now he’s happy. He had some skating shoes, but he didn’t like them, so I switched it for a gaming headset and he likes that a lot better.”

Judging by the huge smile on his face and the way he was sharing his new Christmas gift with his friends, Keenan Bryson certainly treasured his present.

“It almost has more stuff on it than a phone,” said the nine-year Bryson, who received a tablet. “Plus, it’s bigger and better than a phone.”

Before the kids opened their presents, Santa Claus – he said he’s from “the North Pole” — read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. Santa Claus also praised everyone who put this memorable event together.

“It’s so wonderful to finally get to be part of helping (the kids) out face-to-face,” Santa Claus said. “So often I see them on the 24th (of December), but they’re always asleep, so unless I get to come to an event like this I really don’t get to interact with them very much.”

“So this gives me and Ms. Claus time to actually sit down and talk with the kids a little more. It’s a wonderful program.”

Ms. Santa Claus was also present and helped spread joy and deliver some good tidings to the kids.

“We love kids, and this is a wonderful program,” Ms. Claus said. “You can see all the smiles on these kids’ face.”

“I’ve seen them try to give their gifts away. That’s pretty amazing for kids to think of others like that.”

Barea also recalled how grateful the kids were.

“It was a great atmosphere (at the Oak restaurant), and everybody was having a good time,” Barea said. “There was a lot of energy in there, especially with the kids.”

“So it was just great to be a part of that.”

Throughout the NBA Cares Season of Giving, the NBA, its players and teams will be out in full force in various communities hosting hundreds of charity events around the United States and Toronto. The plan is to brighten the holidays for thousands of families and their children.

“For us to be able to lift their spirits at least for a day, I think it’s great,” Harris said. “The excitement that they have, getting the presents that they ask for, seeing the great look on their face and being appreciative, on top of that, getting to meet us, hopefully this will make their year.”

Nowitzki summed up the uplifting evening best by saying: “I’m happy and glad to hopefully bring these families some cheer and some holiday spirit. It means the world to them and obviously to us.”

New Basketball Court Brings Kids to Boys & Girls Club

Mavs and Seth Curry dedicate court for Boys & Girls Club

Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry partnered with the Mavs Foundation to build the court with the Seth Curry Foundation at the Boys & Girls Club of Arlington.

ARLINGTON – Representatives from the Mavs Foundation renewed acquaintances with an old friend on this fall, and the results were as awe-inspiring as they were the first time they met.

A few years ago, Mavs Foundation reps were on hand for a festive event when they dedicated a Reading & Learning Center at the Boys & Girls Club of Arlington Don Kromer Branch. In September, representatives of the Mavs Foundation ventured back to the same Boys & Girls Club, this time for a basketball Court Dedication.

One long-time member of the Boys & Girls Club’s Kromer Branch, 15-year old Torion Lewis, certainly appreciates the twin dedications by the Mavs Foundation. She said it has gone a long ways towards helping shape her life.

“I’ve been a member of the Boys & Girls Club ever since I was seven years old,” Lewis said. “I came here and I’ve enjoyed my time ever since.”

“I just want to say thank you so much to everybody that donated to our Boys & Girls Club, because out of all of my seven years of being here, this is one of the best things that’s happened to our club and I just want to thank you so much for investing in us. I’m very excited to be here and I think this court is going to help me in the future to better advance my basketball skills and I’m really enjoying it.”

Steve Wurm, the President of the Boys & Girls Club of Arlington, also is enjoying the new basketball court.

“It helps us continue to reach out to over a thousand kids who come to this facility,” Wurm said. “Kids come in here not just to play basketball, but to use this facility for exercise, for taking care of their mind and their body.”

Wurm pointed out that the new basketball court can also be used as a valuable tool for him to recruit other teenagers to this facility.

“We’re trying to get more teens here – get them off the streets,” Wurm said. “We’ve got some neighborhoods around here that kids like to find trouble, and in here there’s an opportunity for a safe place to come.”

“When you walk in here the gym just stands out. It’s amazing – the before and after.”

Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry partnered with the Mavs Foundation to build the court with the Seth Curry Foundation. He attended the Court Dedication and spoke to the crowd and shared with them the value of having a basketball court in their neighborhood.

“It’s great to be in a community in the Dallas area and be able to partner with the Mavs Foundation again and give back to the Boys & Girls Club an actual basketball court,” Curry said. “The basketball court is a place that I was attached to as a kid, so hopefully these kids enjoy it as much as I did growing up playing basketball.”

“Hopefully this is a place where they can just get away from some of the other stuff going on in life like I did growing up, and just have fun playing the game.”

Curry said he was never a member of a Boys & Girls Club. But he added: “I went to a couple of them. Even after my dad retired (following a 16-year career in the National Basketball Association) he used to come by and do different events at the Boys & Girls Club, so I know how important they are to the community, so to be able to help them out is special to me.”

The no-strings-attached assistance by the Mavs is also special to Floyd Jahner, the chief operating officer of the Mavs and president of the Mavs Foundation.

“I love it for the kids to be able to come in and play on a top-notch wood floor in a very nice facility,” said Jahner. “The bigger thing, though, and I really mean this, is that the court is an avenue to get kids into the Boys & Girls Club and get them healthy physically, but more-so bring them in for the other offerings that they have, like the leadership, the homework tutorials, reading and learning, and the computer labs.”

“All of the other programs that they have here are what’s going to help these kids grow up, be successful and be really good contributing people in our community. And that’s what’s exciting about it all.”

At the Court Dedication, a lot of the talk was about the fresh smell of the paint on the court.

“It’s something about a new paint smell, a new court smell,” Curry said. “It makes you want to get out here and get some shots up.”

“It gave me the itch when I walked in here and saw the new court. They really went to the full length of refurbishing this court, and hopefully these kids can enjoy it because I know that people put a lot of work into getting it fixed up.”

That work, Wurm acknowledged, is very much appreciated.

“It was a floor that had a little damage to it,” Wurm said. “But they came in and stripped it down and fixed up some bad spots and polished it up and gave it a fresh new look and it’s amazing. Even the (Mavs’ colored) blue and black walls and everything else are aligned.”

Wurm recalls when the Mavs, along with forward Dirk Nowitzki, traveled to Arlington and dedicated a Reading & Learning Center in this same Boys & Girls Club. A giant picture of Nowitzki with his arms spread out adorns one entire wall in a room in this facility.

“You can’t miss it, with Dirk’s big arms spread from wall-to-wall,” Wurm said. “And it’s packed every day with kids doing homework in there. Now the gym will be packed with things going on, too, so we’re excited.”

“The Mavs Foundation is just a great community supporter around here in the DFW area. Sometimes it’s hard to find the money, so when we’re able to get a foundation like that to come in here, it’s great.”

Curry was unaware that Nowitzki had previously been at the Boys & Girls Club of Arlington for the unveiling of a Reading & Learning Center. Now that he knows it, Curry said: “That’s special to have two different teammates come in and do different things at the Boys & Girls Club.”

“It shows that as a team we’re trying to do good things on the court, but also do better things off the court by helping out our fans and helping out the community.”

2017 Tipoff Luncheon Highlights

DALLAS – As Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle looked into the audience last month at American Airlines Center, he noticed some very familiar faces.

It was the Mavs’ annual Tipoff Luncheon and the folks in attendance were some of the team’s most loyal supporters. Also on hand were the Mavs players, owner Mark Cuban, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, Carlisle and his coaching staff, and a host of the team’s front office personnel.

The co-emcees of the event were Chuck Cooperstein and Mark Followill. Cooperstein is the radio play-by-play announcer for the Mavs, and Followeill is the television play-by-play announcer for the Mavs.

All were there to get an up-close and personal glimpse of the 2017-2018 version of the Mavs in a relaxed atmosphere.

“The Tipoff Luncheon for the season ticket holders is an event I look forward to every year,” Carlisle said. “We essentially introduce the team and everybody at the event gets to hear a conversation with each player.”

“It’s the ultimate time to get to know those guys.”

Six players who weren’t with the Mavs last season were introduced to the crowd. That included guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Gian Clavell, forwards Josh McRoberts, Maximilian Kleber and Johnathan Motley, and center Jeff Withey.

Of course, the big buzz and the one player everyone wanted to especially see was Smith, the ninth overall pick in this past June’s NBA Draft who is expected to help turn around the Mavs’ fortunes. Smith talked about coming from humble beginnings in Fayetteville, N.C., and about his desire to hit the ground running this season.

Smith, who turns 20 on November 25, discussed the monumental task of having the basketball put in his hands and steer the offense as the Mavs try to improve on last year’s 33-49 record.

“I’ve been playing point guard since I was like six years old,” Smith said. “I just go in and do what I do. I’ll find guys, I’ll be aggressive. It’s just about going in and having a feel for it.”

That “feel’’ is something forward Dirk Nowitzki can totally relate to, particularly since he had to carry the Mavs for the majority of the last 19 seasons. Nowitzki knows the Mavs are in good hands with Smith.

“He’s definitely a special athlete,” Nowitzki said. “We’re going to have a lot of fun watching him hopefully for a long, long time.”

Of course, it was duly noted that Nowitzki is in his 20th season – all with the Mavs. And that the Mavs have a lot in store for him this season as they walk down memory lane and commemorate what could be Nowitzki’s final season in the NBA.

The crowd also got to hear Puerto Rico natives J.J. Barea and Clavell tell heartfelt stories concerning the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. The moment was obviously very emotional for both Barea and Clavell.

“We’ve been through it before, but nothing like this,” Barea said. “Electricity, like we all know, is not that good in Puerto Rico. You get a rain storm and you get electricity out for a couple of hours. So now it’s really going to be bad – for six months, maybe a year. So we’ve just got to figure that out.”

Barea was thankful to Cuban, who has let him borrow his plane at least five times to send supplies – and pick up family members and others – from Puerto Rico.

“That’s why I’m here,” Clavell said. “That’s why I picked Dallas because of the kind of people that they are.”

“From top to bottom they’re the best people, and I couldn’t have made a better decision. That tells you what kind of guy Mark Cuban is, and (the) Dallas organization. That lets you know that they care about you and your family.”

All in all, the attendees got an inside look at the Mavs on a personal level.

“It’s special for them,” Carlisle said, referring to the supporters at the Luncheon. “Our guys are accessible to them, even before and after the luncheon.”

“The fans get a chance to mingle and get pictures, which is really important to them. Look, these events are the life blood of our franchise.”

An undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2016, Finney-Smith recalled how emotional last year’s Tipoff Luncheon was for him. It occurred shortly after he officially made the Mavs’ final roster.

“It felt good to even have the opportunity to be in that position, especially being undrafted,” Finney-Smith said. “So I’m just trying to treasure every moment I’ve got.”

“I got to meet a couple of season ticket holders, and I just wanted to say thank you for coming. Hopefully we can get some more wins for them.”

Smith’s big takeaway from his first Tipoff Luncheon?

“I got to interact with a couple of fans, and that was the main thing,” he said. “It was cool, I had a good time and I enjoyed it.”

And that was the whole point. For the players and MFFLs to thoroughly enjoy themselves, and for the attendees to learn something about the players that they otherwise didn’t know.

“There are always a few new guys each year, and then Mark’s there,” Carlisle said. “He’s always heavily engaged in it and has a lot to say, and Donnie and myself. It’s fun and it’s well put together.”

“We need to stay completely connected to the season ticket holders, corporate sponsors, suite holders and everyone like that. They’re the support system that we do not take for granted.”