Building Partnerships: A Lesson in Patience and Corporate Social Responsibility

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On the evening of December 5, 2009, I was conducting my usual basketball coaching clinic at the New Delhi YMCA. Towards the end of the evening I noticed two tall “white” guys watching. I approached them and knew at once that one of them, Brooks Meek, was the person that I had been corresponding with from the National Basketball Association (NBA). During my time in India, March 2009 through February 2012, the NBA was continuing its worldwide expansion and I was able to participate in a number of events in New Delhi.

When I came back from Nepal to the US in late 2016, I thought about how I might connect “my” world of wheelchair basketball with the NBA. Troy Justice, who I had met in India and who was the first Director of NBA India, was now working at the NBA headquarters in New York City, but given his responsibilities, was difficult to contact.

When I moved to North Carolina in February 2018, I knew that the NBA All-Star weekend was going to be held there the following year. Through the Bridge II Sports (BIIS) wheelchair basketball tournament in August 2018, I was able to make a connection with the Greensboro Swarm, the minor league basketball team of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. From there I became connected with the NBA Corporate Social Responsibility Department in New York City.

I persisted and had the opportunity to speak and visit with NBA employees, discussing having some wheelchair basketball during the All-Star weekend. After a number of months, the NBA agreed to have the BIIS youth wheelchair basketball team, PRIDE, participate in a Junior NBA event on February 15. (They also involved a school for children with disability in Charlotte, the city where the All-Star weekend was held.) This turned out to be an incredible experience for both the NBA/WNBA and PRIDE athletes.

The NBA is one of the largest and most successful sports leagues in the world. This is due in part to the growth in the number of international players and the number of basketball leagues around the world. My experience is that basketball is one of the fastest growing sports anywhere, especially since one doesn’t need a lot of equipment to play. The NBA has made huge in-roads in both China and India, accounting for 36% of the world’s population, and is now starting a basketball league in Africa. Everyone wants to partner with the NBA.

The NBA does a lot in terms of corporate social responsibility through its NBA Cares Programs. For the Junior NBA Program, Under Armour is the presenting sponsor. For the Jr. NBA All-Star event that the PRIDE participated in, Under Armour provided t-shirts, shorts, socks, and shoes to more than 1500 participants. During the weekend my main contact at the NBA, Sheley Reister, was working on a number of community projects in Charlotte. The NBA is serious about giving back and making a difference especially when it comes to working with children.

Corporate social responsibility works for all sides of a partnership. In order to conduct social programs, NGOs often need the help of businesses in terms of both in-kind and financial donations. I found this to be the case when I worked in both India and Nepal, as well as, the US. The motivation for corporations is to promote their products or image in the minds of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this if it can truly benefit the social sector and not harm the environment.

It took almost 10 years for this NBA connection to germinate and grow. Observing the faces of the PRIDE athletes and their parents told me that this was well worth it, an experience that will last a lifetime. Every day we have the opportunity to dream and help others fulfill their dreams. Being kind and patient and helping others is key to ensuring that we are being the best that we can in this world.

 

 

Position: Director-EveryBODYPlaysNC

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