It’s late-September, and basketball is almost back. As much as the game is constantly changing, posing new challenges and presenting new hurdles for every player on every team to overcome en route to achieving their goals, Wesley Matthews’ life off the floor has become dramatically different in the last year, in the best way imaginable. He has a daughter.
Raised by a single mother and with support from his grandmother and aunt, Matthews was introduced to strong women early in his life. “I was raised by women, and they made me into the man that I am today,” he said. “My mom, my grandmother, my aunt. They instilled in me how to attempt to raise a daughter, and the values and the characteristics of the strong woman, and strong individual, a prideful, intelligent, courageous, smart, athletic, whatever it is that you want to be.”
Now that he’s a father, he has the chance to pay forward their love, affection, and guidance for him to the next generation. And, as is often the case for new parents, having a child of his own is fueling Matthews to share that same desire for children in need.
Matthews and the Mavs Foundation recently spent an afternoon at Girls Inc., where they unveiled the Wesley Matthews Learning Lab. Opened in 1968, Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas provides after-school and summer programs for girls ages 6-18 from low-income communities in Dallas County. In addition to totally renovating the room, Matthews and the Foundation provided computers and tablets which the girls will now be able to use for reading, writing, completing homework, exploring career opportunities, and, most importantly, engaging with STEM fields such as robotics, drafting, and design.
“Here at Girls Inc., we are determined that the ZIP code you were born in will not limit your opportunities,” CEO Beth Myers said. “Having access to learn and use the latest technology is really critical for our girls’ success in education and their future careers.”
Typically, when a player makes any sort of appearance, he will speak for a few minutes and then he might spend some time with the children while they’re breaking in their new space. Matthews, though, took his responsibility one step further. The guest turned the table on his hosts, asking each of the 20 or so young girls in attendance for the ceremony what she wants to be when she grows up. One by one, he asked and they answered. Some responded veterinarian, some responded teacher, some responded doctor. One little girl nearly whispered that she wants to be President. Matthews asked her to come to the podium so she could speak it directly into the microphone so everyone in the building could hear her. “You got my vote,” he said.
“All of you can be whatever it is that you want to be,” Matthews told them. “I want you to really believe that you can do whatever it is that you want to do.”
Matthews knows a thing or two about creating his own path to success. Undrafted out of Marquette, Matthews had to battle simply to break into the NBA, and he’s been fighting ever since. His Achilles ruptured in March 2015, a couple months before he was set to enter free agency as one of the top names available. Matthews recovered from the injury perhaps faster than anyone else in history, appearing in the Mavs’ season opener that fall.
His toughness has earned him the nickname Iron Man. Going all the way back to his rookie season in 2009, Matthews has credited his mother, Pam Moore, for instilling in him that toughness. Moore herself is one of the most decorated track athletes in Big Ten history, so she understands what it takes to succeed in competition. “We didn’t allow quit, we didn’t allow defeat,” Moore told Oregon Live in 2014. If anyone knows about overcoming overwhelming obstacles and beating predetermined odds, it’s Matthews. And if there’s any man who knows what a strong woman can achieve, it’s Matthews. Now, with a daughter of his own, it’s no surprise he was drawn to this project for these girls. Hopefully with his help, the girls of Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas will one day realize their dreams as he did.
“In this space, I encourage you guys to have your own opinions, have your own thoughts, have your own ideologies,” he told them. “Mess up, but you’re going to be great in doing it. Find whatever it is that you love. Everybody has created this opportunity and this space for you. Enjoy it. Love it.”