O'Neal Makes All-Star Gesture to U.S. Troops

by Conrad Brunner

February 6, 2003

Indianapolis, February 6, 2003 - With his dad in Kuwait, preparing for possible war with Iraq, 13-year-old Derrek Sharp has been down lately. A phone call from Jermaine O'Neal helped brighten his mood considerably. Sharp and his mother Tina will be going to the NBA All-Star Weekend in Atlanta as O'Neal's guests.

It's a gesture by O'Neal and two other All-Stars, Tracy McGrady and Antoine Walker, as a tribute to U.S. troops overseas. McGrady and Walker also will host youngsters for the trip.

“With everything going on in the world today, it is important for our troops and their families to know that their fellow Americans understand and truly appreciate the sacrifice they are making,” said O’Neal. “This is the least we can do to let the troops and their families know that we are thinking about them. I am very honored about being selected an All-Star, and at the same time I want the troops to know that during this exciting time in my life, that my thoughts are with them.”

Each of the All-Stars will provide travel accommodations and All-Star game tickets for the family from the city in which they play. Derrek will be joined by his mother Tina Sharp. Father Darrell Sharp is a specialist who has been in Kuwait since January 12.

The players, in coordination with the National Guard in their respective home states, hope to send a message to the United States servicemen and women stationed around the world that they are on the minds of all Americans. The kids will join their All-Stars for the game on Sunday, February 9, and will also be treated to various All-Star Weekend activities in Atlanta.

“Every year, All-Star Weekend provides the NBA family and its fans the opportunity to come together to celebrate the game of basketball," said Arn Tellem, President and CEO of SFX Basketball - which represents all three players. "Tracy, Jermaine and Antoine truly are All-Stars -- both on and off the court. The All-Star Game is an ideal platform to communicate the message that NBA players remain mindful of the sacrifices of our troops around the world.”

McGrady will be hosting Melissa Miller and her 8 year-old daughter, Tessa from Brandon, FL. Charles Miller, Tessa’s father, is a member of the Florida National Guard and is currently in Ft. Stewart, GA. His unit has been called up and is preparing to leave overseas.

Walker will host 12-year-old Cory Antunes and his mother Lisa from Boston, MA. Cory’s father, Juan, is currently in Afghanistan where he is a specialist in the 772nd unit.

O'Neal told USA Today the events of Sept. 11 changed the way he looks at a lot of things.

"I was one of those guys who just didn't think about some things but, after Sept. 11, I was able to put a lot of things in perspective," he said. "It is hard to put in words, but I think of all the kids who are wondering when they will even see their fathers and mothers again. We, as basketball players, aren't heroes. All we do is play basketball. The soldiers overseas are the real heroes. They are my role models."