Thunder Players Give Back on Saturday Afternoon

On Saturday, past, present and future generations of Oklahoma basketball collided all at once.

One such member of that basketball community, Juanita Brown, was the second ever women’s basketball coach in Oklahoma City and to this day stays in shape by working out at the INTEGRIS Pacer Fitness Center. Juanita and her husband Don Brown are in their eighties and have been active members of the Oklahoma City sports community for decades, continuing that attitude by watching every single Thunder basketball game, regardless of time.

When Thunder players Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Ryan Gomes stopped by the Pacer facility on Saturday to take part in a Senior Fit Clinic with dozens of senior citizens, it was an incredible experience for both parties. The afternoon started with basketball-based exercises that the Thunder players took part in alongside of the senior citizens, then continued as the players joined in with Zumba exercises that earned good-natured laughs from everyone in the room.

At the end of the afternoon, those in attendance had the chance to ask the Thunder quartet a number of questions, take a group photo and receive a special Thunder gift bag. Afterwards, the Browns showed their appreciation not only for the afternoon event but also for what the Thunder as a team and organization has done for the Oklahoma community.

“It’s just an amazing thing to see how they respond to others and they don’t seem self-indulged, but seem really happy to share their talents, their skills and themselves with us,” Juanita Brown said. “We appreciate that.”

“The Thunder has brought more faith in the community,” Don Brown said. “Everybody in this community is proud of them and they’re not just a team for Oklahoma City. They’re a team for Oklahoma. It’s really exciting to see what they have done for this community and the state.”

The Browns weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the experience. It was clear that the entire group benefitted from the encouragement of Thunder players to continue to stay in shape, and the players themselves shared plenty of smiles and laughs as they tried out new activities. Willing to go out of their normal comfort zone and be vivacious with complete strangers, the Thunder players showed that they truly care about bringing happiness to the people who support them every day.

In the question-and-answer session it was clear that the Thunder has lifted the spirits of everyone at Pacer, a training facility for INTEGRIS Hospital patients and members of the Oklahoma City community, but the players also seemed inspired by what they saw out of the senior citizens. According to Pacer Director, Nancy Shidler, these senior citizens are just older kids themselves and that their example of staying fit even in their later years can be influential to young people, even Thunder players themselves.

“These senior citizens, they have a lot of energy in them,” Gomes said. “It’s good to get out here and do some type of extra activity with them. They get a kick out of it and their enthusiasm is great.”

“They inspire us,” Jackson explained. “This is the point where a lot of us players want to get to. We want to be at this age and be active and be able to enjoy life after basketball.”

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While Jackson, Adams, Roberson and Gomes connected with the older generations of Thunder fans, just down the road at All Soul’s Episcopal Church, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook checked in with the younger generation. With his Why Not? Foundation, Westbrook teamed up with 85 foster children who are a part of the Citizens Caring for Children Foundation to give them a special holiday treat.

Many of these children likely may not have received a nice holiday present, so Westbrook decided he wanted to give each of them a pair of his basketball shoes, a t-shirt, backpack and wristband, along with a fun, lighthearted lunch.

“Kids in general are important to me personally,” Westbrook said. “This time of year is best for everybody. As a kid you always want to wake up on Christmas morning or even before and say that you got a gift. I’m excited and blessed to be able to do that for them.”

“This is the most fun part of my job,” Westbrook continued. “They’re good kids. You can see it in their faces that they’re good-hearted and they just want to have a regular Christmas like everybody else.”

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