This year’s NBA Finals attracted an average of 19.9 million viewers, making it one of the most watched finals in history. The competitive play also made it one of the best finals in recent memory. Fans saw superstars LeBron James and Stephen Curry, elevate their celebrity status during the series until Golden State earned their championship in game six.
This brilliance on the court becomes even more important when superstars like James and Curry show brilliance off the court. The LeBron James Family Foundation has been active since 2005 and Curry hosted the ThanksUSA Charity Golf Tournament which supports scholarship programs. Here are a few other active and retired players who find cool and unique ways to give back to the world.
The center from Africa was the fiercest shot blocker in the NBA for 18 seasons, and is now a pop culture reference for his hilarious appearance in a recent Geico commercial. The gentle giant from Democratic Republic of the Congo now spends his time as a symbol of humanitarian work, especially with his efforts to fight polio in Africa. He also donated and raised a total of $29 million to open the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in the Congo in 2007. Last April, Mutombo added Hall of Famer to his already stacked resume which includes two Walter Kennedy Citizenship Awards.
Another giant on the court, Shaq is one of the largest personalities the league has ever seen. He spent most of his career with the Orlando Magic and LA Lakers before bouncing around until retirement, but he’s just as famous off the court — commercials, television, movies — as he was on it. He now works alongside characters like Charles Barkley on TNT, but he’s extremely generous with his time and money when Shaq is away from the camera. He’s donated more than $1 million to the Boys and Girls Club of America.
Steve Nash is only recently retired, but his reputation as a philanthropist stands as strong as his legacy as a point guard. Nash spent most of his career with the Phoenix Suns, where he created the Steve Nash Foundation, an organization aimed to help disadvantaged, neglected, and abused children develop better health, life, and happiness. The foundation hosts an annual fundraiser event called “The Showdown,” where NBA stars play a friendly match of soccer.
Kevin Johnson is another Suns legend, playing a majority of his 13-season career in Phoenix. After retirement, the Sactown native actually ran for the mayor of Sacramento in 2007 and won by large majority. The Dig recalls his success while in office – which included policies that helped develop better education and human rights programs that are still active today. He also founded a charter school for underprivileged children in Sacramento.
Chris Paul is an honorary mention because he is still very much active with the LA Clippers, but in an interview with HBO Real Sports, Paul said he wants to retire early to spend more time with his children. Whether we see Paul retire in a few years or after a decade, his resume as a philanthropist is already impressive as he launched the CP3 Foundation in 2005. The foundation will only grow and expand after he hangs up the shorts. Chris Paul is also president of the NBA Players Association (NBAPA), which is often a tiring and thankless job due to the constant bargaining rights agreements between players and owners. But Paul does it all in grace and style while continuing to dominate on the court.
This article was submitted by and published with permission from the original author, Jim Burch.