Busy December Hasn’t Stopped Clippers From Making Time To Give Back
LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul’s name shone brightly for everyone to see, only it wasn’t his surname printed on the back of his jersey, but his first name on a Christmas hat, complete with elf ears.
He held something in his hand, only it wasn’t a basketball, but a book. And instead of being trapped in the corner by a pair of NBA defenders, he was flanked by a crowd of children listening to a holiday story from their favorite basketball player.
“I say it all the time, it’s easy to write a check and just say, ‘Here, take this and do that,’” Paul said Dec. 8, a day after playing the Warriors, after reading to the kids in attendance at a holiday event he put on at The Grove. “But myself, along with my team, our family and everyone being here, it means a huge deal. Time is the most valuable thing that we have.”
And the Clippers continue to use it in charitable ways, even during a month with more games (17) than days off (14).
For Paul and the Clippers, they’ve found enjoyment in using their brief free moments during the holiday season to donate both with gifts and time.
“Everybody has a responsibility – those who are fortunate enough to do what we do or make as much as we do – to give back,” said Austin Rivers.
For Rivers, that meant spending Dec. 19 – the day after returning from a three-game road trip, capped off by a cross-country late-night flight – to host kids for a holiday shopping spree in Torrance.
It’s just the start, according to Rivers, of a plan.
He wants to hold three major events every year – a back-to-school supply giveaway, a Thanksgiving event taking kids to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and then his Christmas shopping event which began this year.
“There are a lot of people out there that need help, especially kids,” Rivers said. “My thing is all about kids. They’re helpless. They can’t control their situation. I can control mine, so I want to be one of those people that give back.”
Throughout the Clippers’ “Season of Giving,” Rivers is one of many players making that a priority.
The Clippers’ holiday team events tipped off Nov. 15 with their annual Teamwork at the Table event at St. Joseph Center in Venice, distributing Thanksgiving food and clothing to families in need. And it’s continued since throughout December, with the L.A. Clippers Foundation hosting annual team events, as well as players hosting their own.
All of it – from food and gift distributions, to shopping sprees – benefits children and families throughout the Los Angeles area who could use a hand.
“We always want to help,” said Wesley Johnson. “During this time at the holidays, it’s always special.”
From Dec. 4-20, the Clippers held a toy drive at home games for local youth organizations. On Dec. 16, the Clippers Foundation donated toys to all 3,100 students at the five City Year Los Angeles schools in Watts that the foundation supports.
“Even when you’re thinking about days in between games, you think rest,” Paul said the afternoon of Dec. 19, as he went to multiple Targets to give kids $100 apiece for a shopping spree. “But these are the things that enable you to have longevity…This is a lot more important than jump shots and free throws.”
For Paul, who’s been all over the place this month with his Chris Paul Family Foundation, he wants to make sure kids who might not get much around this time of year understand there are people who care.
Paul stopped to pose for pictures with kids, or to guide them to the toys they searched for. The “Shopkins,” Paul found out, was a favorite gift, though he didn’t know exactly what it was.
A basketball court may be Paul’s haven, but he seems even more comfortable helping kids in the community than he does with a ball in his hand. The Target holiday event is an annual one for Paul, who often brings his children along to show them the meaning of giving.
And even when his daughter was sick and couldn’t attend, he made sure that meaning resonated, with a clause that every kid getting $100 must use part of that money to buy at least one gift for someone else.
It is, after all, the Clippers’ “Season of Giving,” and on Dec. 19, the shopping sprees Paul and Rivers put on weren’t even the only Clippers charity events of the day.
That same night, Raymond Felton brought matches from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles together to take them out for bowling and gifts at Lucky Strike L.A. Live. It’s an organization that’s been close to Felton’s heart since he was a Big back in Charlotte.
“You can see the difference you make in their life,” said Felton, who would try to keep in touch with his little every day.
The Bigs serve as mentors and role models, which Felton said “can mean the biggest thing in the world” in putting kids on the right path.
In addition to showing his skills on the lanes, Felton would often take the Bigs and Littles off to the side to offer advice and hear their stories. Later in the night, the kids all got to take a picture with Felton and receive gifts. Regardless of the city Felton’s in, he makes sure to put on a holiday event for the program with any off time he can find.
“We just had a long road trip, long flight five and a half hours back,” Felton said. “It doesn’t matter. Sometimes, you’ve got to take time away to do these types of things. Some of these things mean more than playing basketball.”
Though basketball wasn’t far away from Felton at the time.
Also attending his event were rookies Brice Johnson and Diamond Stone and assistant coaches Armond Hill and Dee Brown. Often this holiday season, the Clippers got together in groups for their charitable events, just to show their support.
Earlier this week, Felton, Stone, Brice Johnson, Wesley Johnson, DeAndre Jordan and Brandon Bass all teamed up at the Salvation Army Siemon Family Youth and Community Center to give families in need gifts and food and to read to the children in attendance.
For Jordan, the success of the event makes him want to return every year. He considers that Salvation Army a sort of second home.
“I kind of see myself in a lot of these kids and in my family growing up,” said Jordan, whose gregarious nature and inviting grin become contagious for everyone he’s around.
He has a knack for making kids smile, and that’s no coincidence.
“I have three younger brothers,” Jordan explained. “We’re all two years apart, and we’re super close. We were raised by my mom, and times were super tough. Now that I’m really fortunate and blessed, I like doing this a lot, because it kind of reminds me of my brothers and my mom and my family and the things we went through. Any time you can put a smile on a kid’s face, it’s amazing to me.”
While the kids frolicked around with new bicycles, the parents were getting their own gifts.
In addition to the foods and gifts, part of their families’ January rent was paid for through the help of the Clippers Foundation, which brought some parents to tears.
That elation rubs off.
“Fulfillment, joy, excitement… It’s everything,” Wesley Johnson said.
For some of the families in attendance, dinners together were a rarity. The next meal might not even be a given. Others didn’t have a home at all.
“It was tough,” Felton said. “It’s been an emotional time with me over these holidays, losing my grandma, and then seeing one of the families, they broke down and started crying when we handed them gifts. I kind of got a little teary-eyed, me and my fiancé. It was rough to see that, and I mean rough in a good way, in the sense of …to see a family so happy like that to shed tears.”
That same night, on a Wednesday sandwiched between games against Denver and San Antonio, Jamal Crawford was just a few minutes south, holding his annual Jamal Claus toy giveaway for kids in the Compton/Watts area.
And even on Christmas Eve, the day after a back-to-back and the day before a Christmas matchup, Crawford was back out helping kids at Paul Pierce’s holiday event, joining Pierce – decked out in a full Santa costume – as well as Stone, Alan Anderson and Marreese Speights, helping host single-parent families and local seniors with holiday dinner and a gift distribution.
All month, the Clippers continue to use their time to give back.
And it doesn’t stop in L.A., as Jordan also plans to host a holiday slam dunk when the Clippers head to Houston at the end of December, hosting a group of children from a local Boys and Girls Club and providing food and T-shirts.
With every event this month, the Clippers are doing more than sending money to charity. They’re donating their time, as well, to see the people they’re helping.
And that effort can be just as rewarding to them as it is to the kids receiving their gifts.
“To know I did that for someone, for them to feel that way,” Felton said, “that’s my present right there.”