As part of a special presentation during halftime of the USC-Boston College football game, the USC Trojan Marching Band honored the late Dr. Jerry Buss, Hall of Fame owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Buss graduated from USC in 1957, earning a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and was a generous supporter of the athletic department’s scholarship fund. He was also a regular at many USC athletic sporting events.
When Buss first purchased the Lakers in 1979, he asked some of the Trojan Marching Band’s best musicians to perform at home games, while having the USC Song Girls dance at halftime as the “Golden Girls.” To this day, the Laker band has performed at every home game.
The halftime show featured some of Dr. Buss’s favorite songs, including “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme song from the movie Rocky and Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo.” The Laker Girls also made a special appearance, dancing to the Trojan Marching Band’s trademark anthem “Tusk,” while the band spelled out “BUSS” on the field.
Director of the Trojan Marching Band, Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, had this to say about Dr. Buss in a statement: “Dr. Buss was a longtime friend of the band. It is a great honor to pay tribute to him at halftime and a privilege to play his favorite Laker Band songs. We’re thrilled to have the world-famous Laker Girls perform with us and to welcome his family to the field.”
Every time Pau Gasol scores a point in L.A.’s Friday evening game against the Clippers, he’ll send $1,000 towards the relief and recovery effort around the tragedy in Japan.
Through Direct Relief International, one of the world’s leading medical relief organizations, Gasol and 19 other NBA players (including his brother Marc of the Grizzlies) committed to help the people of Japan in respective games occurring between the 25th and 27th of March.
Gasol, who is averaging nearly 19 points per game this season, shared his thoughts on the matter after his team’s Thursday afternoon practice:
When natural disaster like that occurs, I think it affects us all. You never know where it’s going to happen next, or if it’s going to happen to somebody close to you, related to you or yourself. The world has to team up and get together and help and support, and that’s why I knew I was going to do something. It was just a matter of how and when, and when I learned about the Direct Relief International and what they were doing, supplying medical supplies and financial support right away and making a difference, I thought it was the right fit. That’s why I’m going to donate $1,000 for each point I score in tomorrow’s game, and I’m proud to join a few other NBA players* that are also part of this initiative.
The donations go towards supporting the immediate health needs of people affected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami’s off Japan’s coast, and to assist local authorities best situated to assess, respond and prepare for the long-term recovery, according to a release from Direct Relief International.
“Direct Relief responds to emergencies all around the world, including the U.S., and the scale of the tragedy in Japan is immense by any measure,” said Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief International. “These world-class NBA athletes are showing world-class generosity to support people in Japan who need help now and will still need it as the headlines fade. We hope they light up the scoreboards this weekend.”
“We are incredibly proud that our athletes have rallied together to assist with Direct Relief’s efforts in Japan,” said Arn Tellem, principal of the management division of Wasserman Media Group, which represents the donating athletes. “Due to the gravity of the situation, we hope that citizens around the world consider following the example of our athletes by making a donation of any amount to an organization of their choice assisting in the Japanese relief efforts.”
For Gasol, who donated similarly to the relief of Haiti last year, doing so was natural.
“It’s just something that you feel like doing,” he concluded. “You put yourself in the position of people that are struggling, and you can’t even imagine it even if you see some of the images that are out there. You just try to be a leader in a way, and hopefully attract some more people and awareness so people will join you, and more support is created by it.”
UPDATE: Gasol scored 26 points against the Clippers to raise a total of $26,000.
Press Release Attached Below
Los Angeles Lakers’ All-Star Pau Gasol announced his partnership with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles at a private event on March 10th with Jack Pettker, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and Robert Kay, MD, vice chair of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Childrens Hospital.
Gasol will initially be involved in community outreach initiatives on behalf of the hospital, and will participate in hospital radiothons, as well as interact with Orthopaedic patients. Some patients will have an opportunity to attend Lakers’ games as Gasol’s guest.
“It is extremely rewarding for me to help draw public awareness to the amazing work being done at the Orthopaedic Surgery Center at CHLA,” said Gasol. “The doctors and staff work tirelessly to give young kids the ability to lead normal active lives.”
“Pau has a vision for creating more opportunities for the children of Los Angeles and around the globe to realize their dreams of being able to walk, to run, and stand taller,” said Pettker. “We are thrilled to call him a partner.”
Before each American championship-winning sports team visits President Obama at the White House, they are enlisted to do a service event as part of the President’s “United We Serve” campaign that encourages everyone to give back to the community on a year-round basis.
For the Lakers, that time came on Monday morning at Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center – prior to the team’s afternoon visit to the White House – when the Lakers put on a fitness and basketball clinic for 31 fifth graders from Southeast D.C.’s Stanton Elementary School.
As the Purple and Gold’s Community Relations Director Eugenia Chow explained, the Lakers used the opportunity to partner with City Year, an organization that places students or college graduates with schools.
“City Year is a wonderful organization,” said Chow, who also works with City Year’s L.A. branch. “The Washington D.C. branch has 100 corps members that are 17-to-24 year olds who commit to a year of full-time service.”
Executive Director of City Year Washington D.C. Jeffrey Franco explained that City Year’s corps members act as tutors, mentors and role models to kids such as those gathered with the Lakers.
“They help the kids with one-on-one tutoring, group tutoring, in-class support and creating a positive climate at the schools they’re at,” he said. “They’re generally in schools that are high-need schools, and our members are in the school every day from the morning bell through the after school program.”
Part of the mission for both City Year and the Lakers is to create opportunities for kids that they might not otherwise get.
“Following along with the theme of a mentor and a role model, these kids see the basketball players as role models, so when they do something with them in the community, it also creates a very positive impression upon the kids,” said Franco.
Luke Walton would agree.
“It’s always great to get the kids having fun playing basketball, and hopefully you can encourage them to exercise more, be more active and that kind of thing,” said the Lakers forward. “And if you talk to most guys on (the Lakers), we grew up having to do well in school before being rewarded with basketball, so we want to use it as motivation.”
It certainly seemed to be working on Monday, as fifth grade teacher Lora King noticed immediately.
“This is definitely motivational for our students,” she said. “They’re excited to meet the players, they’re excited to get their shirts and I think this is something that can help them stay motivated because we’re going to start a basketball team at Stanton.”
King said that Stanton is trying to create positive opportunities for the students that make them excited both about health and fitness and about going to school, and having the Lakers join that cause is very exciting.
“It’s just nice to see smiles on their faces,” concluded Walton. “We had a great time with the kids, and I hope they can take some of these lessons back to Stanton.”
On Friday evening in New York, Jordan Farmar joined teammate Pau Gasol in donating to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which came on top of his previous $2,500 donation to Haiti Relief that resulted from his sinking a 50-foot put earlier in the week.
But even that wasn’t the first time he’d done charitable work in January, because on the 17th at the Home Depot Center, Farmar (pictured above in the lower center) participated in the second annual Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra Celebrity Soccer Challenge.
The event, which helped raise nearly $200,000 for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation, was designed to raise funds and awareness primarily for bone marrow disease, to which Hamm’s brother lost his life in 1997.
Farmar, who shares the same agent as the greatest female soccer player of all time, supported the effort from the sideline in order to ensure his basketball health.
“Mia and Nomar are great people and it was for a great cause,” he said. “We didn’t have a game that day so I was happy to get out there and support them.”
Farmar said the highlight of his day came at halftime, when patients suffering from life-threatening diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma were introduced to their bone marrow donors for the first time.
“It was a lot of fun just being there and especially seeing some of the kids that were there that got helped out by their donors,” Farmar explained. “Just to see how much one person can change another’s life is pretty cool.”
For every point Lakers big man Pau Gasol scores tonight against the New York Knicks he will donate $1,000 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
The two former presidents established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) to respond to unmet needs in the country, foster economic opportunity, improve the quality of life over the long term for those affected, and assist the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and “build back better,” according to their website, clintonbushhaitifund.org
President Clinton will be on hand at Madison Square Garden for tonight’s game and will be interviewed by ESPN at halftime along with Gasol and the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari.
Other Wasserman Media Group players like Antawn Jamison, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans and many other will join in donating monies per point in tonight’s game.
Los Angeles Lakers Assistant General Manager Ronnie Lester will donate $100,000 to the University of Iowa Foundation to support the Carver-Hawkeye Arena Enhancements Campaign.
“As a member of the Carver-Hawkeye Arena campaign committee, I am pleased to step forward to make this gift,” said Lester. “Coach Lickliter has the program moving in the right direction, and I want to do my part to help this important project.”
Lester is a member of the committee that is leading the fundraising effort to upgrade the 26-year-old facility. The goal of the Carver-Hawkeye Arena Enhancemens Campaign is to raise at least $20 million to modernize the current facility, despite no state funding.
“We are thrilled to receive this gift from Ronnie Lester,” said UI Director of Athletics Gary Barta. “He is one of the all-time great basketball players at Iowa. It’s always special to see former student-athletes reach back and support the Hawks.”
At the request of Lester, the UI Department of Intercolegiate Athletics will name the training room at the remodeled Carver-Hawkeye Arena in honor of longtime UI athletic trainer John Streif.
“John Streif has been a terrific friend to me for more than 30 years. He has worked tirelessly to support me and numerous other athletes over four decades now,” said Lester. “His dedication to the Hawkeyes is legendary, and I’m honored to name the training room for him.”
“On top of his generosity, it is terrific that Ronnie has chosen to honor John Streif,” said Barta. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”
A former two-time All-American standout from the University of Iowa, Lester left the university as the Hawkeyes’ all-time leader in both points (1,675) and assists (480).
D.J. Mbenga concluded his week in South Africa with the NBA’s Basketball without Border’s Africa program, as summarized by league staff:
It was all basketball on the final day of BWB Africa 2009, with a women’s clinic starting things off in the morning led by former WNBA players Nkeysha Sales and Teresa Edwards. Sixty girls Basketball South Africa ran through passing, shooting and dribbling drills. After the on-court action, Hoops 4 Hope ran a life skills session for the girls teaching the importance of teamwork and leadership.
The BWB campers played their last games with their teams and the Houston Rockets, coached by Dikembe Mutombo, Teresa Edwards and BJ Johnson, finished in first place in the camp tournament.
The campers waited eagerly for the All-Star announcement and Nigeria and Senegal had the most representation with six and five respectively. BJ Johnson coached Team Black to a 44-31 victory over Team White. After the game, individual camp award winners were announced as follows, including Nike Camp MVP Gorgui Sky Dieng of Senegal.
The campers then had a final chance to say their goodbyes and trade email addresses with their new found friends at the end-of-camp barbeque.
Among my favorite pregame routines during media access throughout the 2008-09 regular season was stopping by the locker of the always interesting D.J. Mbenga.
Of course, many of the conversations were about basketball. But just as often, the topic would drift to international news, particularly anything involving Mbenga’s native land, Africa. His eyes were just as likely to sparkle when talking about his favorite cause – education in Africa – as they were when an opposing player tried to lay the ball up near his sacred land (the paint).
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mbenga was forced to move to Belgium, but his love for Africa makes it no coincidence that he has been in Johannasburg, South Africa, with the NBA’s Basketball without Borders (BwB) Africa since Wednesday.
The NBA described the project:
The focus of the NBA Cares social responsibility efforts for Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa is education, grassroots basketball development and health related issues with a focus on HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. The BWB Africa camp also features a product donation for local non-government organizations (NGO’s) that includes school supplies, sports equipment, clothing, toiletries, hygiene products and other necessities. Social responsibility efforts are split into two categories. The first is Life Skills seminars, which are hour long sessions held daily for the campers. Life Skills seminars will run in the following schedule: Day 1 – Orientation, Day 2 and Day 3 – HIV/AIDS education and living a healthy lifestyle presented by Hoops4Hope. The second category is community outreach events that take place each afternoon around the Johannesburg community.
The event runs from Sept. 2nd to 6th, and aside from a bevy of basketball activities featuring the Top 60 African players from 15+ countries (ages 19 and under), includes the following visits by the NBA: Sustainable Food Garden Project at Cotlands Home Based Care Facility- Soweto; Habitat for Humanity Build Day; Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY) Trust Visit; Hoops4Hope Girls Basketball Clinic; and Life Skills Seminars including two sessions on “HIV/AIDS Education and Living a Healthy Lifestyle.”
Mbenga’s fellow participants include close friend and fellow native of Congo Dikembe Mutombo (pictured above), Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and WNBA/Team USA legend Teresa Edwards.
We’ll catch up with Mbenga for all the details of the trip upon his return.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) reacted on Wednesday to passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of her resolution honoring the Lakers on their 15th NBA Title, H. Res. 566.
As the NBA Finals Champions, the 2009 Los Angeles Lakers are quite deserving of this honor the House of Representatives has bestowed upon them. The Lakers kept us on the edge of our seats all season, never failing to amaze us with their teamwork, talent, and determination … The effective leadership and talent of Coach Phil Jackson and the athleticism and team spirit demonstrated by Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Paul Gasol, and Trevor Ariza – a graduate of Westchester High School in my District – made for an unstoppable combination,” said Congresswoman Waters. “Like previous Laker greats such as Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pat Riley, and of course Coach Phil Jackson who now holds 10 NBA Finals Championships, the players on this year’s team have cemented their place in the history books. Congratulations once again to the 2009 Los Angeles Lakers.