Sept. 7 -- Dallas Mavericks center Shawn Bradley is no stranger to traveling the world. While a student at Brigham Young University, Bradley spent two years on a Mormon mission to Australia.
This year, Bradley has joined other NBA players and coaches in Johannesburg, South Africa for Basketball Without Borders Africa. We caught up with Shawn, on the phone from Johannesburg, where the NBA ran a clinic and a Read to Achieve event, to see how the first day went.
We heard that you arrived in South Africa a couple of days before camp opened. What did you do with your free time?
Shawn Bradley: I came down here with my wife and a couple of friends and we spent some time near the border of South Africa and Botswana and we stayed at a safari lodge for about four days. We enjoyed the safari adventure out there.
Why did you decide to join the Basketball Without Borders tour?
Bradley: Amadou Gallo Fall [Dallas' director of scouting] has told me a couple times, "You should come to Africa, the kids would love to see you." And the first time, it wasn't right for my schedule, but the second time I said, "You know what, this is a chance to see another part of the world that I wouldn't otherwise see."
It would give me and my wife a chance to see and experience another culture. And I love learning things, experiencing things and I was excited to do it. And so far it has exceeded my expectations.
Today was the camp's first day. What was that like for you?
Bradley: It was fun. There are 100 kids from around the continent. And these kids, they're just sponges. They're so excited to learn, meet a couple of NBA players, NBA coaches and have the opportunity to be taught and coached and mentored by guys they've heard about and seen, maybe. They're so eager and willing to learn.
That's one of the things I love to do. It brings back the purity of basketball to me because they just want to learn. They try what you ask them to try because they want to better themselves and better themselves in the game. They're just neat kids.
What is the talent level at the camp?
Bradley: It fluctuates. There are kids who can barely do a jumping jack and then there are kids who are very skilled, who know offensive and defensive terms. You have a great range of skill level with kids in this camp. And that's to be expected. You have 40-some-odd countries in Africa and 27 different countries are represented in this camp, so there will all levels of learning and experience here.
What is the greatest obstacle for these kids in some of their quests to make it to the NBA?
Bradley: "I think the challenge is, and what Basketball Without Borders is trying to accomplish, is to go into these communities, bring the NBA with them and teach basketball skills which can in turn help better life skills, which, can in turn build better communities. That's the bigger goal than just basketball.
It's principles that are associated with basketball that are being bought into in different parts of the world that I think are more beneficial than any amount of basketball that we could teach.
You also did a Read to Achieve event today. How did that go?
Bradley: It was incredible. It's hard to put into words. We in the United States have a very naοve understanding of how a lot of the world lives. I know there are six billion people in the world and two billion of them live in the type poverty that we have no concept of. And we visited some of these people today. And their spirit and their drive and their enthusiasm is just incredible. Their circumstances are very difficult, but yet they welcome you with open arms, they sing to you with a light in their eye.
There was a comment made today: "We are blessed by visitors." And we were like, "No, we're blessed by visiting you." It was a great feeling and it was a wonderful opportunity to share time with them and experience some part of life that most of us, especially in the United States don't understand.
Is there anything personally that you'd like to get out of this trip?
Bradley: I've been lucky I was able to serve a mission. Mine was Australia, and it wasn't the kind of poverty that I experienced today, but that kind of life experience is unique. Today was another one of those experiences. I'm going to take from it whatever is there to be taken. There are so many things that we experienced today that was something I will never forget.
I may not ever see some of those people ever again in my life, but I will always love them. And being able to take something like that away from this is priceless. It's just an incredible opportunity.
Aside from that, there are these relationships that you develop, I'm big on relationships, that's just me, my wife and I are like that, but the kids were teaching this basketball stuff to, they're neat kids. They're from all walks of life and I'm the type of person who is willing to take all the positives I possibly can.
Is that what you hope the kids take from it as well?
Bradley: I do. Positive and skills associated with basketball that can be translated into life skills that can better communities, better families, better anything. What a great opportunity and what a great accomplishment.