September 7-12, 2005

Johannesburg, South Africa


HIV/AIDS AWARENESS--Moletsane Sports Complex, Soweto

Into their second day of Basketball without Borders Africa, and after a full morning of skills and drills with the camp participants at AISJ, the NBA players headed on their next emotional adventure—taking part in an HIV/AIDS awareness event at the Moletsane Sports Complex in Soweto. Including drama presentations, personal testimonials, music, dance and a health fair featuring mobile clinics, booths and other informational displays, the players aided in raising HIV/AIDS awareness to the youth of South Africa.

Partnered with the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg, students from various schools throughout the area were welcomed into the event site with obvious anticipation. Music blared adding a feeling of celebration while the children danced and shot hoops on the two newly refurbished basketball courts dedicated by Reebok.

Peering through their bus windows as they arrived, taking photos and video shots for their own memories, the NBA players rounded the corner as they pulled into Moletsane. The players were ushered in to cheers and excitement, as the children ran over to the parking lot nostalgic about their long-awaited arrival. Welcomed by a local Imbongi (Zulu Praise Poet), the NBA players took the stage to begin their part in the informative and emotional day.

The local DJ coerced each player out of their seats to the front of the stage, one by one, surprising the crowd and the players alike with a new style of introduction, a 15 second dance solo. With cheer and laughter, the kids gazed on as their larger than life friends showed them how to dance, NBA style. When his turn came, Marcus Camby of the Denver Nuggets stepped to the front of the stage doing his rendition of an African dance learned just yesterday at SKY Trust, with an American twist. The crowd erupted into cheers.

Following the introductions, the players watched a series of powerful testimonials and presentations given by the youth regarding their experiences with HIV/AIDS. When their turn came, former New York Knicks player Jerome Williams and brother Johnny stepped forward to talk with the children about HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Jerome and Johnny worked together seamlessly as they discussed the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa, prevention methods and delivered overall uplifting messages, filling the children with hope and excitement.

Basketball fans around the world know the significance of the acronym ‘JYD’, but today, it had a new meaning. The kids chanted along captivated as Jerome used his nickname initials to illustrate the importance of prevention methods, and prevailing through adversity to do the best you can in all aspects of life.

Jerome and Johnny then randomly selected individuals from the audience, inviting them on-stage to take part in the presentation. Giving each a Junk Yard Dog t-shirt, either white or gray, the children stood in between the two brothers watching attentively as they awaited their role in the performance. After reiterating the importance of bringing a stop to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, those in gray, nearly half the students on stage, were asked to step forward. As they stepped out away from their peers and the audience looked on, they were told their shirt represented infection of the HIV/AIDS virus. An eerie silence fell over Moletsane, as the powerful statistics discussed earlier in the day were brought to life. For those in the audience, this wasn’t just a presentation, this was a reality they are forced to face daily.

Following the presentation, the players thanked all those around for allowing them take part in the emotional experience and walked with the youth over to their new basketball courts, signing autographs and giving hugs along the way. The kids crowded the court to participate in light-hearted drills and skills clinics performed by the players. Music once again filled the air creating much-needed emotional relief.

As the day came to an end, the NBA players slowly walked away from Moletsane Sports Complex, the looks on their faces equally as powerful as any words said throughout the day. The players pulled away to the same cheers and smiles that had greeted them and bid them farewell on every experience of their trip. It was obvious that for both groups, this was a day that would not soon be forgotten.