New York, July 30, 2003 – Minnesota Timberwolves guard Troy Hudson, center Ervin Johnson and newly acquired forward Mark Madsen (formerly with the Los Angeles Lakers), Phoenix Suns forward Shawn Marion and Los Angeles Clippers forward Cherokee Parks are the recipients of the NBA Community Assist Award for the month of June. All five players were part of a group of entertainers and professional athletes that paid tribute to the men and women of the U.S. and coalition armed forces, visiting troops in the Middle East.

Hudson, Johnson, Madsen, Marion and Parks joined former NBA players Spencer Haywood and Bob Lanier in the first entertainment tour to visit the Persian Gulf region since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. As part of Project Salute 2003, entertainers and athletes hosted performances, movie screenings, and basketball clinics. The tour was a cooperative effort of the Defense Department’s Armed Forces Entertainment Office, the USO, the Intrepid Museum Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Vanity Fair, MTV and the National Basketball Association, with transportation provided by Northwest Airlines.

Surfin' USO: We don't know if Timberwolves forward Mark Madsen was a beach boy during his three years with the Lakers, but he did some body surfing while on the USO Tour.
Photo by Mike Theiler for the USO
“This trip was really the culmination of months worth of tremendous outreach by the NBA Family to our men and women in the military,” said Kathy Behrens, Vice President of Community Relations for the NBA. “The players who went on this trip were honored to be able to pay tribute to people who have worked long and hard for our country and they did so with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm -- it was an experience they will never forget.”

“Indeed we are deeply grateful to the NBA players and the NBA for their generous contribution to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund,” said Bill White, President of the Intrepid Museum Foundation. “ This Fund helps to support the families of those troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. We can never forget them and what they have given for our freedoms.”

Hudson, Johnson, Madsen, Marion and Parks join the Washington Wizards’ Jerry Stackhouse (May), New York Knicks’ Allan Houston (April), Orlando Magic’s Darrell Armstrong (March), Sacramento Kings’ Chris Webber (February), San Antonio Spurs’ Malik Rose (January), Detroit Pistons’ Michael Curry (December), Dallas Mavericks’ Michael Finley (November) and Philadelphia 76ers’ Todd MacCulloch (October) in the Community Assist Award winners’ circle for the 2002-03 NBA season.

In recognition of the participation of Hudson, Johnson, Madsen, Marion and Parks in Project Salute 2003, the NBA will donate $5,000 to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The fund provides support to military families who have lost a loved one in defense of our country and provides financial support to help spouses and children with any immediate or long-term financial difficulties.

As the recipients of the NBA Community Assist Award, each player will receive the David Robinson Plaque, with the inscription “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson who improved the community piece by piece.” On March 23rd, NBA Commissioner David Stern presented San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson with an honorary plaque and announced that all future winners of the NBA Community Assist Award would receive the David Robinson Plaque.

The NBA Community Assist Award is given out monthly by the league to recognize players for their charitable efforts. The award honors the NBA player who reflects the passion that the league and its players have for their communities. All 29 NBA teams are able to nominate a player for the award each month.

The NBA, its teams and players are committed to programs that improve the quality of life for all people and has created and implemented programs that address important social issues, with a special emphasis on reading and online literacy initiatives for children. The NBA and its 29 teams make a difference in North America through the Read to Achieve Program, donations to charities and the implementation of community outreach initiatives, and through the production and airing of public service announcements.