Most NBA teams feel they must be positive role models for today's youths, and many have active community relations programs, says Paula Hanson, vice president for team services at the NBA.
In 1989, the NBA initiated the Stay in School program. "The purpose is to use the visibility of our athletes who are role models for kids to help spread a message about staying in school," says Ms. Hanson. So far, 20 NBA teams sponsor Stay in School programs in their communities.
Other NBA outreach efforts:
* The Chicago Bulls fund a foundation called the Charita-Bulls. They began refurbishing damaged basketball courts within the city of Chicago three years ago. Each year they fix 30 to 40 courts that have been neglected and unusable, says Sarah Kalstone, community relations director for the Bulls.
* The San Antonio Spurs began the Spurs Drug Free Youth Basketball League two years ago, and President Bush recently awarded them a Point of Light for their off-court service to the community. So far, 2,300 inner-city children ages 9 to 16 have participated in the program, which runs from January through March, six nights a week. The Spurs are in the process of creating a night basketball league for kids that have been members of gangs.
* The Portland Trail Blazers set up a foundation called the Trail Blazers Exchange Club and linked it with the Boys and Girls Clubs in metro Portland, Ore. Kids can enter a drawing for an exchange trip to Phoenix if they have perfect attendance at school and a minimum grade point average of 2.5. The Trail Blazers traveled to Phoenix three times this season, and on each trip they took four boys and girls. The Phoenix Suns liked the idea so much, they brought four Phoenix-area kids to Portland for their la st game there this season. Both teams plan to continue the program.