In fact, Powell said that reading is one of his favorite passions and it keeps him balanced during a hectic basketball schedule.
It’s also what he leaned on to help battle back nearly two years ago from an Achilles injury that threatened to end his NBA career. Jan. 21 will mark two years since that fateful day and Powell proved, yet again, what it means to defy odds and persevere through hardship. Overcoming obstacles is the exact message he shared with the children Tuesday as he read an adorable story about a young girl with her own dreams.
The Mavs Reading Challenge is an annual event hosted by the franchise and presented by Whataburger. Tuesday afternoon, Powell and Mavs game night emcee Chris Arnold hosted a virtual Reading Timeout with a second grade class from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Dallas.
In honor of No. 7, here are the Top 7 moments from the Mavs Reading Challenge.
One thing that makes Dwight Powell so remarkable is his ability to immerse himself in any atmosphere. Tuesday afternoon, the Mavs forward/center stepped into the magical world of basketball with second graders as they learned about a girl named Allie. Powell read a book called Allie’s Basketball Dream by Barbara Barber and all the students in the class received a copy of the book as they joyfully followed along with Powell.
Allie’s story of self-determination is one that young athletes, both boys and girls, will recognize. The story teaches about the ups and downs of practicing and playing hard, and it’s a spirited tribute to perseverance (something Powell knows quite well).
“Sports and reading, no matter your gender, is all up to you,” Powell told the students. “No one can limit you in anything you do, especially at your age. You have so much time to figure life out. Nothing should stand in the way. Basketball is not just for boys. Basketball is for everybody. If it’s something you like, you enjoy or there’s something you’re curious about — you must go for it. Give it a try. You never know, if you want it really bad enough, you could be one of the greatest ever.”
The Mavs Reading Challenge presented by Whataburger is a 40-day program designed to improve reading literacy throughout North Texas and encourages the love of reading for kids of all ages. The Mavericks and Whataburger are challenging students (grades K-12) to read, or be read to, for a minimum of 20 minutes per day for 40 days. If participants log and complete the Mavs Reading Challenge by March 31, they will receive a Whataburger Certificate of Completion, a free meal coupon, and a Mavs swag bag.
The top 20 young Mavs fans who read and log the most minutes during the Mavs Reading Challenge will receive two tickets to a Mavs game, while the top reader will receive a mascot visit to their classroom along with Mavs and Whataburger swag.
After reading the book Allie’s Basketball Dream, Powell gave some sage advice to the youngsters (and even adults alike) to remember why reading is important. But — his advice doesn’t just stop at books. He explained why it’s important for every person to follow their dreams and never limit themselves.
Powell told the students: “The more you read, the easier it is to read and the more fun it is to read. And then you start to read things that are more challenging and expand your mind more. You can start to investigate more things that you’re curious about. Most of all, don’t ever let anyone limit you guys. Just like this book says, ‘no matter what anyone says, or how they try and tell you what you can or can’t do, it’s up to you.’”
He continued: “if there’s something you’re passionate about or curious about or want to try or be great at — it’s all up to you. Cease the moment you have now and go forward knowing you are extremely powerful and there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”
After the Mavs Reading Timeout, Powell took a few minutes to visit with the media on the Zoom call. He was asked about his reading preference when it comes to hard copies or digital E-readers.
“I’m a physical book person, by and large, but I was gifted an E-reader over the holidays. I’ve been trying to convert because it’s just easier and lighter. But I still always keep at least one physical book. Whatever the main book is that I’m reading, I’ll bring it with me. If I’m on a long road trip, I’ll go to the Kindle or e-reader. I like the smell of books though, the physical pages turning…there’s something satisfying about it with me.”
The Mavericks Book Club is not booming like it once did with Dirk Nowitzki on the team. Powell said a few guys on the team talk about the books they are reading, but the team doesn’t have just one particular story they read together each month.
“We don’t have a book club anymore, unfortunately,” Powell said. “Me and Maxi, we’ll kind of discuss books that we’re reading, but we haven’t sat down and started one at the same time yet this year. But Maxi is a guy that reads a lot, a whole, whole lot.”
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s Mavs Reading Timeout, Powell had this advice for the students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary: “I find joy in reading. I think one of the coolest parts about reading for me is that you can teleport yourself to a different place, to be a different person and view the world in a different way. You can go on all sorts of adventures without ever leaving your house. So as a child, that was a way for me to really explore with my mind. With every turn of the page, I knew something super-exciting awaited.”
He said it’s also a way to explore different interests. “For example,” Powell explained, “I love basketball and that’s something I can read about, as well. Obviously I love to play, but growing up in Toronto, around this time of the year it’s hard to find an outdoor court that’s not completely buried in snow. So to read about some of the great players and their journeys and how they got to be so successful is something that was fun for me to do. It helped me get to where I am.”
Powell shared that he has two favorite genres: books about the mind and how to learn, plus he reads a lot of poetry.
“My favorite book is actually a book called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It’s about a man’s journey home and how the village that he leaves asks him a series of questions about life. It’s written in a poetry-style. Reading doesn’t necessarily have to be chapter books or picture books. There’s poetry, there’s speeches, movies made from books and books made from movies. So it’s definitely a world that’s worth exploring, especially at your age. I can’t say enough about the importance of reading and the fun you can have doing it.”
This Friday, Jan. 21, will mark two years since Dwight Powell came close to seeing his NBA future come to an end when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon against the Los Angeles Clippers. Recovery and rehab from this type of injury takes an amazing amount of determination, wherewithal, and mental fortitude — but Powell is one of the most resilient players in the NBA. He not only recovered, but he’s done it with an incredible amount of grace and humility.
Powell said before his book can be written, it still needs some additional chapters and he’s curious how his own story might play out.
When asked about a potential book on his life, this is what Powell said: “That’s an interesting topic for me. I think my book and story is still unwritten. I think I’m still on this journey and trying to figure things out, so that’s something I try to reiterate to these kids. Learning is lifelong, it’s ongoing. I’m still getting better everyday. In terms of my story, I’m curious to see how it goes. I’m excited for the next few chapters for sure.”
The Achilles injury is just one chapter in the story. If it was up to me, Powell’s book would be a tale of redemption and resilience. Although he’s one of the most brilliant minds in the league, his ability to relate with others is the magic sauce. That’s where his story holds the most power. So his memoir should be written in a way that Mavericks’ fans (and readers) can relate because we can all take lessons from his journey.
Powell is the only child of Harlan Powell and Jacqueline Weir, a woman born in the West Indies. His mom was a bank executive and always stressed the importance of academics. Powell told the students Tuesday afternoon that school didn’t always come easy. He was shy and afraid to read aloud in class and was sometimes scared that he might stutter. However, he did have the rare ability to push himself even in discomfort and this skill still helps him even today. He also had a tutor at times and he shared with the children that it’s okay to get help.
Dwight chose to play college basketball at Stanford over Harvard and Georgia Tech. He earned his degree in science technology in society. During his junior season, his beloved mother Jacqueline abruptly died of breast cancer. She never saw her son make it to the NBA, but Powell carries her spirit everywhere he goes. He excels in the community and on the basketball court, where he’s close to logging his 500th career NBA game.
And if you think basketball is the major theme in his life — think again. When asked about playing a certain opponent this season, Powell couldn’t even recall whether the Mavs won the game or not. When another child asked about his stats, Powell, once again, blushed and couldn’t remember exactly how many points he’s averaging this year. It was yet another reminder of how Powell’s humility is what makes him endearing to young and old alike. Basketball is what he does, not who he is.
Before the injury, Powell was one of the Mavs’ more explosive players who also brought a lot of energy to the court. In addition, he was very proficient at successfully negotiating the back end of the lob dunk. That part of Powell’s game certainly returned the last two years. He also continues to pour out countless hours in the community, giving back to the people and game he dearly loves.
Just like he told the youth, “there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”
Powell continues to defy odds and if he does indeed write a book — it will be a story that touches and inspires many lives. People will flock to read it. I’ll be the first in line.