Jonathan Isaac Teams Up with Pepsi, Papa John's to Provide Food for Local Families

by John Denton

ORLANDO - A day after undergoing a battery of tests and drills designed to strengthen his body and rehabilitate his rapidly improving left knee, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac turned his attention to strengthening and helping others in need by passing out free Pepsis and Papa John pizzas.

Continuing the work that he’s done in collaboration with Project Life, Inc. and J.U.M.P. Ministries, Isaac joined up with the Magic, Magic Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw, Pepsi and Papa John’s on Friday to provide lunch and refreshments to those in need at the Royal Place Apartment Complex in the Pine Hills section of Orlando. Papa John’s donated 200 pizzas and Pepsi and its "Stronger Together" campaign supplied drinks for approximately 100 families.

Isaac, a former Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award winner who recently donated $25,000 to Project Life’s "Ready, Set, Feed’’ program, said he feels that it is incumbent on those who are fortunate to help out others during this time of critical need as so many have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe in recent months.

"It’s extremely heartbreaking and that’s what events like this are all about – firefighters have a job, the police have a job and I feel like the church has a job, too," said Isaac, who is an ordained minister in addition to being a talented forward for the Magic. "So many churches around the country and globe have done a great job of helping people out and that’s what we’re trying to do now. Everybody is affected, so I think it shows us the perspective of how short and critical life is and it shows us how (life) can be here today and gone tomorrow. So, our ability to band together, show faith and love are important and we can’t be too afraid to step outside and help somebody else."

Minutes after Isaac and Magic Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw handed him a Papa John’s pizza and a bag full of Pepsi products, Orlando’s Courtney Jimmerson had tears in his eyes and was filled with joy. He said the willingness of others to help out in a time of such tremendous need warmed his heart and restored his faith in the good of organizations such as the Magic, Pepsi, Papa John's and Project Life.

Jimmerson said there are seven people, including five children, in his apartment complex and times have gotten especially tough in trying to provide enough food for everyone. To get through those trying times, Jimmerson said various families have tried banding together and sharing whatever food that they have available that night. The generosity of the Magic, Pepsi, Papa John’s and Project Life, Inc. made his day on Friday.

"To be honest with you, I look at this as a blessing to have people come in and care for the community like they have today," Jimmerson said. "I kind of want to tear up because this means so much to me.

"It says a lot for the Magic to organize something like this,’’ Jimmerson added. "I think they are an amazing team and I’m just glad they are doing something like this for this community. Times have been really tough because we’re having to share meals. We’re just all so happy for a program like this to help us when times are so tough."

Isaac has tried being tough while rehabilitating a left knee that he severely sprained in a Magic win over the Washington Wizards on Jan. 1. At the time of the injury, the nearly 7-foot Isaac was one of just two players in the NBA ranked in the league’s top 15 in both blocked shots and steals per game.

With NBA facilities shuttered from March 11 until last week, Isaac had to work out and conduct rehab sessions mostly on his own or virtually online. With the Magic allowed to reopen the Amway Center last week for voluntary workout sessions for players, Isaac has been able to drill with strength coaches, physical therapists and team physicians once again and he feels he’s been able to make some significant progress toward a return to resuming basketball-related activities.

In addition to getting up shots on an almost daily basis, Isaac has stepped up his work on his legs of late. On Wednesday and Thursday, he ran on a machine that keeps some of the pressure off the knees and ankles and did weighted squats – and he reported no lingering pain or swelling afterward.

"Just with the arena opened again, I’ve been coming in and getting rehab pretty much every day," Isaac said. "I ran in the Alter-G for the first time two or three days ago, so I’m feeling good and getting there. I’m just taking it one day at a time.

"Leg feels good," Isaac added later. "Yesterday or the day before, I squatted the most (weight) that I’ve done so far. So, it’s just taking it one day at a time. The Alter-G (running machine) was a big step forward and I’m glad that I got through it without any swelling."

The 22-year-old Isaac, who recently got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, is hopeful that his steady progress might allow him to rejoin his teammates once NBA teams begin full practice sessions. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has informed teams that he hopes to announce plans for resuming the regular season and playoffs by June 1. At the time of the stoppage of play, the Magic were 30-35 and had won three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 12 after the all-star break.

Getting Isaac back remains a question and will depend how he responds to continued rehabilitation. The Magic is just a half-game back of the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings. In addition to Isaac averaging career highs in scoring (12.0), rebounding (6.9) and assists (1.4) this season, he ranked fourth in the NBA in blocked shots (2.4) and 12thin steals (1.6) when he went down with the sprained left knee.

Isaac said if Magic management and the medical staff clear him for a return, he’ll welcome the opportunity to return to action.

"Absolutely, that’s how I’m taking it,’’ he said. "With the league talking about coming back, we don’t know (what will happen) and they might be talking about (playing in) Orlando, I’m not sure what will happen, but I’m going to take it one day at a time. If it crosses up that I’m good to go, then I’m good to go. If not, then it’ll be too bad, and I’ll be back next season.’’

Isaac said the Magic’s players and coaching staff conducted a full question-and-answer session on Zoom earlier in the week, and he’s gotten to talk to many of his teammates in recent days before and after work outs at the Amway Center. Isaac said he is of the belief that players will be comfortable returning to practices and game action – even while playing without fans – in the face of a COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think the league is going to make sure of (the safety of players)," he said. "We won’t come back if that’s not the case."

In the meantime of basketball returning, Isaac plans to continue to pour himself into his rehab process and helping out others in the community however he can. For months, he made it a weekly ritual to go to grocery shopping in order to help restock the food pantries at J.U.M.P. Ministries and Project Life, Inc. He said it’s highly important to him to know that he’s done everything that he could to help out those who are less fortunate than him – especially during this time of tremendous crisis.

"Because of what our basketball team means to this community, there are a million kids out here who look up to us and respect us," said Isaac, who clearly takes his position as a role model seriously. "For them to see us do something like this, it makes them want to believe and dream and think, 'When I get to that position, I want to do something as well.' So much goes into this and I’m just kind of the face. J.U.M.P. Ministries and Project Life have been doing this for weeks now, so huge shout-outs to them, and to Papa John’s, Pepsi and the Magic for all that they have done.

"I just want to do something to help out to make sure that everybody gets through this together," he added. "There are people who can go out and buy three weeks of groceries, and that’s fine, but we all need to help those who can’t do that."

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.


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