Collison, Thabeet Glad to be Back on the Book Bus

After a long, grueling 10-day, six-game road trip some NBA players might have wanted to do their own thing once they got back to their hometown. Thunder players want to get out into the community.

On Wednesday afternoon Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet boarded the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company at Wheeler Elementary School in Southeast Oklahoma City to help a group of third graders pick out a free book to take home and enjoy. For a newcomer like Thabeet, but particularly for Collison, the Thunder’s longest-tenured member, being back in Oklahoma and mingling with its citizens was a joy that felt long overdue after the big road trip.

“It’s good to be back and it’s always fun to do these events,” Collison said. “The Thunder does a really good job with this trying to promote reading for kids. As players I think we can help out and it’s a good thing that the organization does.”

Collison passed out bookmarks while Thabeet handed out wristbands, and both players helped the students who hopped onto the bus pick out which book they wanted. From Junie B. Jones to Captain Underpants and from Judy Moody to Goosebumps, the Wheeler Elementary students had a field day finding the exact title they wanted.

For Collison and Thabeet it wasn’t their first rodeo; they knew exactly where to direct the kids when they came on looking for a specific book. Both players hoped that their presence on the bus would help the students care that much more about reading in their daily lives.

“We just get to meet the kids and share a smile with them and just see how happy they are to meet us and actually get to get books from us,” Thabeet said. “I’ve been doing this for quite some time, so now I know where the books are and what a lot of kids’ favorites are… I get to know a little bit about the books.”

“It’s great, just coming back, all the energy put into this is very positive,” Thabeet continued. “It helps a lot of kids. Instead of playing video games and stuff, they get books from us and actually can go home and be proud and read them.”

For Heather Bullock, Wheeler’s principal, the experience was just as exciting as it was for the kids. The students were wide-eyed when they saw the two Thunder big men awaiting them on the bus, then sprouted even bigger smiles when Collison and Thabeet joined the class for a photo after each student had grabbed a book.

“This was amazing,” Bullock said. “These kids will remember this from now on. They talked about it all day, before they even knew players were coming. Just the idea of the books and the bus coming. For me it’s amazing that the players would take their time to come out here for our kids and give them this opportunity that they normally wouldn’t have.

The biggest impact from the day might not be seen this evening or even later this week, but over the course of time as these students continue to grow both in the class room and in their extracurricular endeavors. Bullock believes that the visit from the Thunder showed her students how important reading is and that above all, the organization and those in the Oklahoma City community genuinely care about their success both in and out of the classroom moving forward.

“It encourages them because they see that reading is important to these people that they look up to,” Bullock said. “They look up to athletes probably more than anybody. That will give them that encouragement... I think it makes the players real to these kids. It’s somebody now that they can now say, ‘Hey I met him’. They know the Thunder cares about them and their school and what we’re doing.”