On the court, it’s been a roller coaster season for the Brooklyn Nets, who have turned their fortunes around since January 1. But off the court, Brooklyn’s first major professional sports team since the Dodgers has continued to thrive in giving back to the local community.
On March 4, the team invited over 60 athletes from Special Olympics New York to its private practice court located within the Barclays Center for an afternoon of autographs, photos, drills and lessons from the pros.
Three-time NBA All-Star Deron Williams was joined by guard Alan Anderson, rookie center Mason Plumlee and newcomer guard Marcus Thornton who was recently acquired via trade, to spend some quality time with the excited members, who cheered loudly as they entered the practice facility.
Once the festivities started, Duke alum Plumlee, addressed the crowd. ”We’re happy to be here for you guys. We’re going to have a great time,” said Plumlee.
The participants then lined up in front of the Nets players as they put their John Hancock on the Brooklyn Nets Assist t-shirts that the organization had given out. Afterwards, it was time to get to work as the Special Olympic athletes of all ages sprinted around the court while players and family members encouraged them along the way.
“Lift your legs,” encouraged Thornton to one athlete as he gave out plenty of tips and high fives. A stretching exercise took place and was then followed by dribbling practice with Plumlee and a shoot around session with Williams.
Anderson, who is in his first season with Brooklyn, enjoyed the opportunity to spread some cheer. “It means a lot. You could see how excited they are to see us and we’re just excited to see them,” he said. “They cherish these moments. They will have a lot of these memories and feel some happiness today. That’s what it’s about. Basketball is the easy part.”
Though he’s one of the new kids on the block, he’s experienced how important it means to the Nets to be involved in the community in various ways. “We try to give back as much as possible,” Anderson stressed. “It’s big, especially for the inter-city people here from the Brooklyn community. It’s big to give back to them.”
Thornton, who joined the team from Sacramento on February 19, chimed in. “For them to be able to be in our practice facility and get first class treatment is great and I’m happy just to be here,” he said.
The feeling was mutual as both coaches and teachers were proud of the good will that was transpiring. “It’s fantastic and such great motivation and validation for them. It’s nice for them to get attention,” said Lauren Murphy, a teacher at P.S. M721, a school for students who may deal with various physical and/or emotional challenges. “It’s a blast. And they’re going to go back to school and tell everyone how much fun they had and show their pictures they took. Our kids don’t get to do stuff like this, so it’s really nice for them to have today.”
The Nets’ team mascot, the Brooklyknight was also on hand to cheer on the crowd. Once the scoreboard clock hit zero and it was time to go home, the group was still ecstatic, chanting ‘Brooklyn’ and filming their own home videos, bragging that they met their favorite players.
“It was really nice of the Nets to do this,” said Murphy. “We’re really thankful.”