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Legends Reunion 2007 Community

‘Wali Jones Runs the Point’

By: Talia Bargil

Language barriers and cultural differences don’t stop the Legends from making a difference worldwide…and the recent Legends Reunion in Puerto Rico was no different.

This past September, the NBRPA incorporated a new element into their Annual Reunion repertoire. This time around, the Legends’ weekend of fun, sun and walks down memory lane included a day of community service, a chance for these sports icons to bring a smile to the faces of hundreds of children.

“This event was particularly special for the Legends,” said Len Elmore, NBRPA President. “We set out to San Juan not only to reunite with our peers, but with a mission to make a difference in a community that certainly needed and appreciated our support. Our group is dedicated to helping our own and helping
others…it was a natural fit.”

An eternally vivacious and animated Wali Jones, member of the 1967 Champion 76ers, hosted a fantastic basketball clinic, alongside former San Diego Clipper and professional motivational speaker, Jim Brogan. Nearly 100 boys and girls from local homeless shelters gathered at The Robinson School for an interactive and entertaining morning of hoops.

The duo of Jones and Brogan was joined by an equally upbeat cast of former players, including Sam Perkins, Mack Calvin, Dan Anderson, Jim Price, Walt Hazzard, Stephen Howard, Michael Ray Richardson, Aaron James, Eldridge Recasner, Sedric Toney and Tom Hoover.

“The main thing is that we feel like we can make a difference…it’s about Legends teaming up with Legends to help our most important natural resource – our youth,” said Jones, currently the Miami Heat’s community affairs liaison.

The kids soaked in all they could during their visit from the pros, as the sounds of squeaking sneakers and bountiful laughter permeated the open-aired gym. Overflowing with enthusiasm, the little ball players shot jumpers, practiced their defense, and listened intently as they learned the fundamentals of the international game.

While one group of Legends was hoopin’, another group was over at San Jorge Children’s Hospital bringing joy and lifting the spirits of hundreds of sick kids.

Legends Len Elmore, Buck Williams, Willie Burton, Jim McIlvaine, Keith Herron, John Moore and Bobby Hunter went room to room, brightening the days of many boys and girls, from toddlers to teens.

“Having spent time in the hospital as a child, I know how difficult that experience can be and how thrilled I was whenever I had a visitor. I always try to keep that experience in my mind when I visit children in hospitals today,” said Jim McIlvaine, seven-year NBA veteran. “Regardless of whether a retired player spoke fluent Spanish or a sick child spoke fluent English, smiles and laughs are universally understood and there were plenty of both to go around during our visit.”

Buck Williams, three-time All-Star and 17-year NBA veteran, shared in McIlvaine’s sentiments.

“I really enjoyed our visit with the kids at the hospital…it was special, all of us former players together,” he said. “Even in our retirement, it’s very important that we stay active in the community, and giving back in Puerto Rico was a perfect opportunity. It was a very productive day of community service.”

Elmore made stops at both community events and was pleased to see everybody – kids and Legends alike – sharing laughter, special moments and rewarding experiences.
“The basketball clinic and hospital visit was absolutely fantastic,” said Elmore. “The impact the Legends have on today’s youth is almost unfathomable, and our community outreach in Puerto Rico certainly proved it. This is only the tip of the iceberg of what we can do as former players, and we look forward to continuing to make our presence felt globally.”

Legends also distributed T-shirts, basketballs, signed autographs and took photos with the children at both sites.

“It may have been the first time we did something like this during our Legends Reunion, but I am confident it won’t be the last,” said Jones. “When I speak of the Legends, if not you, who? If not now, when? If not here, where? We can make a difference, not only here in the United States, but throughout the world. The ‘NBA Cares’ and so do the Legends.”

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To view the photogallery for this event, click here.