DALLAS – Mavs Gaming head coach LT Fairley and power forward Zaeya “Zae” Ishak brought the holiday spirit to North Texas on Friday when they surprised two families with custom esports equipment and other unique gifts.

Mavs Gaming is the NBA 2K League affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks franchise.

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The big holiday celebration occurred at Moorland Family YMCA at Oak Cliff, and Mavs Gaming decked out the room in new coats and stuffed bags full of special holiday surprises.

The families were shocked and thrilled to see Fairley and Zae standing nearby with gifts uniquely designed for each teen. 

“Christmas has always been a magical time for me, and it’s probably my favorite holiday,” Coach Fairley said. “I love seeing people smile and being happy. That’s what we’re doing today. We went out and got top-of-the-line gifts and presents for these families. We’re providing the kids with Mavs Gaming gear, video games, Playstation 5s, and all types of things. It’s really fun to see them smile.”

Tray Thompson oversees community outreach with Mavs Gaming, and he said the holiday surprise was a labor of love. All the gifts were customized and created to give the families the best experience possible.

“The inspiration really came from our Mavs Gaming and community leadership team,” Thompson explained. “We put our heads together and wanted to make a big impact in the best way possible. This is the Mavs Season of Giving, so we wanted to give 100 percent to these families.”

Thompson said that each family received winter essentials, including coats, beanies, gloves, and socks.

“We also put an esports twist to it, so each family got a custom Playstation 5, an esports gaming monitor, controllers and more. On top of all that, our partners at Belong Gaming were nice enough to provide two Playstation gift cards that have $100 on them.”

The gift cards will allow the teens to shop online at the Playstation stores and purchase new games for their gaming systems.

“We really went all out this year,” Thompson said.

Belong Gaming Arenas opened in October 2021 inside Grapevine Mills, becoming the company’s first gaming center in North Texas. Visitors can play for fun or train like Mavs Gaming esports professionals. The center features top-of-the-line gaming PCs, equipment, and next-generation consoles. Belong Gaming Arenas also helped Mavs Gaming give back to the community through this project.

Moorland YMCA selected these particular families because the teens are passionate about esports and integral in helping the YMCA grow their esports programs.

The teens help run their discord channels and their esports tournaments. One of the young people didn’t even have transportation to attend the events, so he’d bus to and from YMCA locations to help run the programs.

“These kids were selected because they really continue to help push the programs forward, despite any of the obstacles at their hand,” Thompson shared. “So it makes the situation much better and more gratifying internally knowing that these items are going to families that really can use this stuff.”

Friday night’s celebration took place in the new Mavs Reading and Learning Center at Moorland YMCA, a room decked out in the latest technology gadgets designed with young leaders in mind. These young people are among those who use the new learning center.

The esports community continues to grow in North Texas rapidly, and it’s turned into a legitimate team sport for young and old alike.

Esports can simply be defined as competitive video gaming.

Many school districts and community programs like the YMCA recognize the passion behind gamers, and they continue to create new opportunities for young people. Still, it’s a costly sport, and all the gifts selected for the families this year will go a long way to help their dreams come true.

Gamers in the Y’s leagues and tournaments enjoy game play in Rocket League, Madden, Smash, Fortnite, Pokemon, NBA2K, and FIFA.

YMCA Esports says their program “is the development of values through progressive program stressing skill development, fun, physical fitness and friendly competition.”

According to the Y, they believe video games provide a unique skillset for youth including the improvement of hand-eye coordination and problem-solving strategy and awareness. Even more, it boosts the  self confidence of young people and gives them friends to compete with and improves social skills.

Over 71 percent of parents report gaming having net positive effects for children.

The sport has especially grown since the pandemic since many young people were at home and picked up new hobbies and passions. The ability to communicate online has forged friendships that leaders believe will only strengthen the gaming sport for young people.

Mavs Gaming has seen the same kind of impact with people of all ages in the community.

In fact, last month, Mavs Gaming held an event for Wounded Warriors who also rely on the sport to help them combat PTSD and other challenges in their life. These types of stories are the exact reason Mavs Gaming aims to provide outreach in North Texas in hopes of growing the sport and connecting with others.

“As an NBA2K League franchise, we’re going to do the best in our power to focus on our community and people here locally,” Thompson said.

Mavs Gaming is gearing up for Year 5 in the NBA 2K League. Dallas recently landed the first overall pick in the 2022 NBA 2K League Draft.

Dallas Mavericks senior vice president Greg Nared said the organization is thrilled to have landed the second No. 1 pick in the last five years. The Mavs go through a complete vetting process of potential prospects to ensure the selected player aligns with the core values of the Mavs.

Competition on the sticks is essential, but the Mavs also strive to have good role models and teammates both on and off the court.

Giving back to the community is a vital part of the Mavs Gaming process, and this is especially true around the holidays and during the season. Before Friday’s surprise giveaway to the youth, Fairley and Zae helped the Mavericks pack up gifts for the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree.

Mavericks staff members adopted sixty angels to make the holidays brighter for North Texas families.

“Christmas was always special for me growing up,” Coach Fairley said. “We weren’t always in a position to get the nicest and coolest things, but my mom did what she could to make it special. Now that I look back, I realize that creating a special experience is really what stuck out to me. It was magical, and now I want to give other children those same kinds of memories.”

If your child has a passion for playing video games, you can champion their interest this holiday season through Mavs Gaming Camp.

The Mavs Academy Holiday Camps are back and in person for the first time since December 2019. The Academy will host Holiday Hoop Camps (presented by Chick-Fil-A DFW), Holiday Dance Camp and a virtual Holiday Gaming Camp. Gaming campers will learn video fundamentals, with the opportunity to engage in tournament play at the end of camp.

Registration is now open! Parents can find additional information and registration for camp at Mavs.com/Academy.


Tuesday, Dec. 28 – Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Virtual NBA 2K22

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