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Yturralde: The NBA has found the perfect form of philanthropy

| Monday, April 6, 2020

The NBA is already one of the most philanthropic sports leagues in the world. Pure charity, giving back to communities and people in need and who love the game of basketball is one of the main motivators for the league’s extensive community outreach projects, but what else is a factor?

The NBA does such a good job of giving back to communities in need, because that is where so much of the league’s top talent comes from. According to Dubrow and Adams, 34% of black NBA players in 2010 came from families earning no more than $22,050 for a family of four. Families like these are prime candidates for support from one of the many charitable ventures the NBA supports. 

The main philanthropic organ of the NBA is the NBA Cares program. Since its inception in 2005, the program has produced more “than 5 million hours of hands-on service … [and] created more than 1,300 places where kids and families can live, learn or play.” Among efforts to create safe spaces in which kids can play, the program has built and refurbished countless basketball courts. 

Through these projects, the NBA is investing in its own future. Every kid who has the opportunity to play basketball in a clean and safe environment adds to the ever-growing basketball talent pool. The more kids there are playing basketball, the more competitive the game becomes and the better the players become.

This applies both domestically and internationally. In the same way that it undertakes philanthropic ventures in the US and Canada, the NBA has vastly expanded its international operations. This is evidenced by the fact that the number of international players in the NBA has more than quadrupled in the last 25 years. 

By implementing programs such as NBA Basketball Schools, NBA Academies and Basketball Without Borders, the league is gradually expanding its reach to all corners of the globe. The NBA’s initiatives in Africa have been of particular interest lately, producing some of the league’s fastest rising stars. A largely untapped and underdeveloped market, the limited infrastructure that the NBA has invested in Africa is already producing large dividends. 

The NBA is hedging its bets for the future by investing in basketball at the ground level. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all of the NBA is selfish for approaching charity in this way. There is countless evidence demonstrating the benefit that these philanthropic ventures have on people and families in need. The point that I am trying to illustrate is that the NBA cracked the code for charity. They developed a formula in which everybody involved in a charitable exchange benefits and they are making full use of it.   

An ambassador of the NBA and basketball in every way possible, LeBron James is the perfect example of zero to hero. James was raised by a single mother and moved countless times before he was eight years old. Now, a three-time NBA champion and guaranteed Hall of Famer, James leads the NBA in giving back to those in need. Through the LeBron James Family Foundation and ventures like the I Promise School, James has helped countless families and communities in need.

I think that the example set by the NBA in undertaking philanthropic causes is one of the primary motivators behind players doing the same thing.

Critics may ask if charity can still be classified as generous if the party responsible for it is gaining something from it? In this case, I think that it is fair to say that it does not matter.

The NBA has created a system that grows off of itself. There is direct reciprocity between the league giving to communities in need and those communities producing the basketball stars of the future. As the league and players give back to communities, more kids are exposed to basketball, the best of whom eventually reach the NBA.

Charity has never been so profitable.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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