ORLANDO – When Orlando Magic players Aaron Gordon, D.J. Augustin and Markelle Fultz reflect on their basketball journeys and think about the people who helped turn their dreams of making it to the NBA a reality, their closest family members are the first who pop into their minds.
Gordon, now in his sixth season with the Magic, vividly remembers the advice his parents and siblings relayed to him while he rapidly developed into one of the top young basketball stars during his teenage years in Northern California. Augustin, eight years older than Gordon, doesn’t forget how his family inspired him while he was growing up in New Orleans, and then Houston when he was forced to relocate following Hurricane Katrina.
Fultz, a big-time basketball recruit coming out of Maryland, shares similar stories. For him, though, this past year while recovering from his injury was when he counted on his family the most. They helped get him through what was obviously a very challenging time.
Knowing first-hand just how important it is to have a supportive family, all three Magic players are enthusiastic whenever they get the chance to help other families bond, especially around the holiday season.
Gordon, Augustin and Fultz – along with other volunteers from the Magic and Amway Corporation – helped set the table, literally and figuratively, for that to happen this year on Thanksgiving for many families in the area.
They spent their Saturday afternoon at Orlando’s Northwest Neighborhood Center, where they helped pay for and distribute 475 Thanksgiving meals for underserved families in Central Florida. The meals included turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, dinner rolls and dessert. Magic forward Jonathan Isaac also contributed to the purchasing of the food.
“It’s huge. My parents are very special people. They extend our family values to everybody that feels that they need it, feels that they want it,” said Gordon, whose parents joined him in giving out turkeys during the event. “Everybody in here is an extension of our family. We are going to treat them with the same values, the same principles that we would treat my brother and my sister. It’s just great to see them hand out turkeys. It’s something special.”
Augustin, a father of three, handed out the dessert alongside his wife and his daughter, which made the afternoon even more fulfilling for him.
“Family is everything to me in my life,” he said. “It’s probably the No. 1 thing in my life above basketball and everything. Being there for my family, showing my family love and having them at events like this to give back and show love to other people is very important.”
Not only will the families assisted by the Magic’s players and Amway have a delicious full-course meal to enjoy, they now will be able to connect on Thanksgiving and spend precious time together. That, in and of itself, puts a smile on Fultz and his teammates’ faces.
“It means the most to me,” the 21-year-old Fultz said. “It’s bigger than basketball. On the court, I’m going to do what I have to do. But, to be able to be remembered for giving back to the community, I think that’s the bigger part that I want to be remembered for. Just being seen in the community and actually showing people that I care and I want them to know I am the same person as them and I want to be able to relate to them.”
Saturday’s distribution was the first of two Thanksgiving-related Magic community outreach events taking place this year. The other will happen on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, when Head Coach Steve Clifford will join more than 50 Magic volunteers, including players, families and staff, to serve a holiday breakfast to the 500-plus residents at the Coalition for the Homeless and the more than 100 unsheltered homeless individuals from the community. This is the 27th year the Magic will host the breakfast. Later that morning, the Magic will also host a carnival for the families.