Since the Brooklyn Nets moved to the borough in 2012, the franchise has found ways to show its gratitude toward military personnel stationed at Fort Hamilton Army Base. This year was no different.
On Monday, November 14, just two days after Veterans Day, Nets players Quincy Acy, Trevor Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie served as coaches and referees as veterans were the stars playing a friendly but competitive game against each other.
Joint Task Force Empire Shield of the New York National Guard took on the New York City Recruiting Battalion.
In past years, the Nets held a practice for veterans to watch, but this year, the tables were turned.
“Every year on Veterans Day, we like to do something with the base,” said Michael Wisniewski, senior manager for community relations for the Nets. “We’ve worked with them for a few years now and this time we decided to do something different. We wanted the vets involved in playing basketball so we had the guys coming in to coach the players which is different than what we’re used to. We also have 26 veterans coming to watching a game in a suite, and an additional 50 tickets that will be going to veterans as well. In years past we’ve come for full team practice in front of veterans. This year we want to make it more interactive and have the veterans play a game with our players there to coach the team.”
The Nets also want to show their gratitude to the military. “The players are always seen as superstars or role models but we wanted to show that the veterans and military men and women are actually the real life heroes,” said Wiesniewski. “It’s great to have a partnership with Fort Hamilton. It’s over seven years strong. Each year we try to do something new.”
“They do the more important job,” said Acy, who served as one of the coaches. “We just go out and play basketball games, so to come here and give back means the world to me. It’s fun. You see the passion and the competitive level they play at. They enjoy it and it’s good to be able to coach. We look up to them. We just play a game. They risk their lives. The franchise does a great job of keeping us all involved in the community and that’s the most important thing.”
“On behalf of the Brooklyn Nets, we along with the rest of the Nets are grateful for what you all do,” Dinwiddie told the crowd. “We really appreciate it. It’s an honor to be able to come here and spend time with you all. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Military personnel were thrilled at the game and about the players giving them pointers on how to play the game right. “It’s an honor that the Nets are taking time out of their busy schedules to come and support their community,” said Staff Sergeant for the Army Michael Illidge. “It’s a good friendly game between the National Guard and the Army Reserve. We plan on coming out victorious but we’re just happy to be there.”
“It’s a blessing. I’m a chaplain for the Army and to have a National Basketball Association team’s support, I feel that it’s very patriotic and encourages a lot of our service members to know that we receive support from our community,” added Chaplain Major James Kim.
“It was a great and humbling experience,” said Staff Sergeant Howard Lovell. “Everyone was involved. We were able to get the military kids close to see us play sports to see that we don’t only do military stuff. We also enjoy playing sports and it was great interaction with the Nets players. Overall, it was a great and exciting event.”
The game was a nail biter. After trailing by 10 after the first quarter, the New York City Recruiting Battalion made a comeback and took the game in overtime by a score of 47-46.