NBA, WNBA players join ‘The Real Heroes Project’ to honor healthcare workers

Brian Martin, for

May 6, 2020 9:52 AM ET

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Donovan Mitchell and Breanna Stewart are taking part in 'The Real Heroes Project'

When Donovan Mitchell takes the court for an NBA game at Vivint Smart Home Arena, he is cheered by thousands of Utah Jazz fans, many of whom are wearing a No. 45 jersey with the name "Mitchell" running across their backs.

Professional athletes are often viewed as heroes both for their efforts on their respective fields of play - whether it be a basketball court, tennis court, baseball diamond, football field, race track or wrestling ring - as well as their efforts to help impact their communities.

Earlier this week, Mitchell posted the following photo on Instagram holding up his Jazz jersey with his name covered and replaced by the name of Dr. Cassandra Tribble. It was his way to honor a healthcare hero working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA and WNBA have joined a dozen other professional sports leagues in announcing "The Real Heroes Project," a collaborative initiative to recognize and celebrate healthcare workers with a combination of social media posts using the hashtag #TheRealHeroes as well as the following public service announcement that debuted Wednesday morning to coincide with National Nurses Day.

Along with Mitchell, WNBA All-Stars Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm and Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Phoenix Mercury posted their own “#TheRealHeroes” tributes on Instagram, with each player holding their jersey with the name of an inspirational healthcare hero in place of their own last name.

Mitchell, Stewart and Diggins-Smith are doing their part as the sports community will come together to salute heroic individuals across the healthcare system through “The Real Heroes Project.”

Athletes from across professional and esports league’s taking part in “The Real Heroes Project” include:

• Activision Blizzard Esports – Esports athletes Seth "Scump" Abner of Call of Duty League,  Li “Liooon” Xiaomeng of Hearthstone Esports, and Matthew “Super” DeLisi of Overwatch League

• Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) – Professional doubles tennis players, and most successful duo of all time, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan

• Electronic Arts (EA) – reigning FIFA eWorld Cup Champion Mohammed “MoAuba” Harkous, 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup Champion Mosaad "Msdossary" Aldossary,Madden NFL 19 Bowl Champion Drini “Drini” Gjoka,Madden NFL 18 Bowl Champion Seamus “Young Kiv” Kivlen, andprofessional Apex Legends competitors Eric "Snip3down" Wrona and Bowen "Monsoon" Fuller (#StayandPlay)

• Major League Baseball (MLB) – New York Yankees All-Star outfielder Aaron Judge and Milwaukee Brewers All-Star outfielder Christian Yelich

• Major League Soccer (MLS) – Los Angeles Galaxy forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Toronto FC and U.S. Men’s National Team forward Jozy Altidore,and Orlando City SC forward Nani (#MLSUnites)

• NASCAR – Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch and 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick

• National Basketball Association (NBA) – 2020 NBA All-Star and Utah Jazz point guard Donovan Mitchell (#NBATogether)

• National Football League (NFL) – New Orleans Saints All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees, Arizona Cardinals All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and San Francisco 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle

• National Hockey League (NHL) – NHL Legend Wayne Gretzky, Chicago Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews and Toronto Maple Leafs Assistant Director of Player Development and former Canadian Women’s ice hockey Gold Medalist Hayley Wickenheiser

• National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) – United States Women's National Soccer Team and Sky Blue FC forward Carli Lloyd andUnited States Women's National Soccer Team and Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan

• United States Golf Association (USGA) - Lydia Ko, winner of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur and youngest number-1 ranked player of all-time

• Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) – Four-time WNBA All-Starguard Skylar Diggins-Smith of thePhoenix Mercury and two-time WNBA All-Star and 2018 WNBA MVP forward Breanna Stewart of theSeattle Storm (#WNBATogether)

• Women's Tennis Association (WTA) – American teenage sensation who won her first three WTA titles and broke into the Top 50 at just 15 years old, Coco Gauff; Champion of the 2018 U.S. Open followed by 2019 Australian Open, Naomi Osaka from Japan; highest-ranked Canadian in the history of the WTA and 2019 US Open Champion, Bianca Andreescu; WTA World No.1 and 2019 Roland Garros Champion from Australia, Ashleigh Barty; and former WTA World No.1 from Belarus with 20 WTA career singles titles, Victoria Azarenka

• World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) – WWE Superstars John Cena, Triple H and Charlotte Flair

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