The Dallas Mavericks selected Kristaps Porzingis as the October ’21 Community Spotlight Award winner, presented by Chime, due to his extraordinary commitment to serving children and families in North Texas.
Furthermore, the Mavs community relations team chose the Latvian as the franchise’s nominee for the NBA Cares October Community Assist Award, presented by Kaiser Permanente, for using his platform and resources to empower the lives of others.
The NBA Cares Award is regarded as one of the most coveted honors that an NBA player can receive because nominees have chosen to dedicate their basketball career to a calling much more significant than themselves.
The monthly NBA Cares awards are especially significant this season because the league is celebrating 75 years of creating champions both on and off the court.
“Our team is full of players who really care about the community,” said Hannah Sherertz, director of corporate social responsibility for the Dallas Mavericks. “When it’s time to selecting our monthly award recipients, we look at the totality of impact and influence during the month and throughout their time with us. We felt like Kristaps really sets the standard at the start of the season with his continuous support of the foundation, as well as jumping right in to celebrate with students at their school, he’s making an enormous impact in North Texas thanks to his charitable efforts. We are extremely thankful for Kristaps and the work he is already taking part in for our community.”
For the first time since the pandemic, players are now allowed to serve and work with others in-person again, and Porzingis was among the first Mavericks players to take advantage of the new protocols.
Before the Mavs hit the road for the first game of the season, Porzingis took the stage with his teammates at the Mavs annual Tipoff event and helped raise over $130,000 in funds for the Mavs Foundation. The money will be used to empower the lives of children, families and women in North Texas.
Then, on Oct. 25 before the Mavs home opener, the 7-foot-3 superstar visited with children at a local Dallas Independent School District elementary school to donate technology and spirit kits to the students and teachers.
“Spending time with them is everything to me,” Porzingis shared. “They’re our future.”
The Dallas Mavericks worked with the Dallas Independent School District to determine the most requested item by parents, and headphones were at the top of all elementary students’ lists. With virtual and digital learning spiking during the pandemic, even the youngest students played catch up in the technology space. Porzingis jumped at the chance to help deliver the first of 80,000 headphones that were donated to every elementary student attending DISD.
Porzingis, of course, is an NBA player. But he still sees himself in the eyes of young children he comes across daily.
“I’m still a big kid at heart,” he grinned. “I mean, the kids probably don’t even know who we are; they’re so small, but they just see how tall we are, and they’re amazed by that. It’s good to slowly get back to a sense of normalcy. We still have to wear masks and stuff, but at least we get to high-five the kids and have a little bit of fun.”
His work in North Texas is an extension of the service to community he’s long contributed to children and families in his homeland of Liepāja, Latvia. It’s a place where veteran journalists once hailed him as Latvia’s “most famous citizen.”
Porzingis continues to create better opportunities for children and families back in Latvia. During the summers, he builds courts and trains young Latvians during his “KP6” camp. He’s also devoted his career to serving other people in more minor ways that don’t always require ribbon cuttings or press conferences. These moments usually occur when young fans ask for selfies or just want to say hello to the Mavs forward, and Porzingis is always happy to oblige.
“He loves kids, so this is great for him,” his brother Martin says.
Before the start of the season, new Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison and head coach Jason Kidd traveled to Latvia to visit Porzingis.
“KP is not just an incredible basketball player, but an incredible person,” Kidd shared before the start of the season. He also noted what a great time it was to visit with the people and places that are most meaningful to Porzingis.
In the coming weeks, Porzingis will continue his mission to give back when he leads the annual Mavs Turkey Giveaway at Buckner International, dishing out free turkeys and all the fixings to hundreds of underserved families in great need. Porzingis will serve alongside some Mavs teammates, plus Mavs entertainers, volunteers, and staff to serve over 250 families who otherwise wouldn’t have such a fulfilling Thanksgiving meal.
Since Porzingis’ arrival to Dallas, he’s been committed to numerous outreach programs with a mission to fight childhood hunger. It’s personal to him because the Latvian understands the harsh realities children once faced in his homeland.
Until 1990, Liepāja was under Soviet rule and in the economy lagged in the years that followed. By the time Porzingis was born, things improved, but he’s aware of the arduous journey and hunger that people in his own family and fellow neighbors once faced.
Even in North Texas, Porzingis strives to make life better for young people, and he’s stepped up to the challenge and created several childhood hunger campaigns since arriving with the Mavericks.
Over the past two seasons, he’s personally donated over $200,000 through his self-created #KrisStops campaign to help those deprived of basic food needs.
Over 12 organizations have received funds from the #KrisStops program, and he partnered with Whataburger to help countless families in need.
Porzingis also loves the game of basketball and believes in exposing youth to the sport that has brought him great joy and success.
For the 2021-22 season, the Latvian will host 10 extraordinary kids to watch the Mavericks compete at the American Airlines Center. He has personally purchased nearly 450 tickets for the season for community youth groups to attend the games for free. Throughout the year, he will also host numerous meet and greets with these groups.
Porzingis strives to create unique experiences for young people because a mystery ailment once threatened his own life as a child.
During his early teenage years, he suffered through unending trials of fatigue that would leave him sleeping for 14 hours or more a day. He couldn’t run up the court and faced the scorn of coaches and people who wondered what was wrong with him.
“I couldn’t run, I couldn’t do anything,” Porzingis said during an ABC News story. “And I didn’t know what was wrong.”
Eventually, doctors discovered anemia was plaguing his life, but the trauma and struggle of his teenage years is still something he will always carry.
Now that he’s fully recovered from anemia, the memories and lessons from the past fuels him to create a better world for children.
It’s been through some of his most tremendous hardships in life that Porzingis’ true calling and destiny ultimately emerged.
“I think that’s what makes him who he is now,” his brother Janis said. “Now he feels like he can push through anything.”
It’s the same message that Porzingis shared with us while standing outside the elementary school last week. Even at age 26, he’s lived through a lifetime of experiences and he’s just getting started.
In late October, he was donating technology to children, but it’s really the gift of hope that Porzingis provides to others.
For him, it’s about the people. It will always be about the people.
“There is no question that Kristaps Porzingis is a kid at heart, with a big heart. He 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.”