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NBA coaches honor Autism Acceptance Month with custom Nikes

Head coaches across the league will wear custom Nikes from April 2-7 to support Autism Acceptance Month.

On any given night there is no shortage of elite kicks on an NBA team’s sideline. This week will be no different, however, there will be some extra meaning behind the sneakers. 

From April 2-7, NBA head coaches across the league will wear custom-designed Autism Acceptance-themed sneakers from Nike during select games. This initiative aims to raise awareness and funds for autism resources and services in honor of Autism Acceptance Month this April.

Each pair of Nikes was custom painted by JSM 801 Customs, a Salt Lake City-based studio with team colors and a rainbow infinity symbol, which symbolizes the neurodiversity spectrum.

The idea stemmed from Utah Jazz assistant coach Scott Morrison. Morrison and his wife Susanne have a four-year-old son, Max, who was diagnosed with autism in 2022. After the campaign, the sneakers will be signed by the NBA coaches who wore them and auctioned off. The proceeds will be donated to the To The Max Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the Morrisons, and will support autistic individuals and their families.

“My wife and I wanted to do something just to start trying to contribute to autism acceptance,” Morrison said. “We reached out to eight to 10 head coaches that I had either a friendship with or had their contact information, and just sent them a letter with our proposal to wear these shoes in April.”

From there the idea snowballed. The National Basketball Coaches Association – led by executive director David Fogel – caught wind of the situation and asked the coaches throughout the league to get involved. 

“[It] seemed like a big task at the time, but the coaches seemed very eager to help out … just watching all the coaches respond like within a day or two, saying they want to participate … it was very heartwarming,” said Morrison.

One of the first coaches to jump on board was Boston Celtics’ Head Coach, Joe Mazzulla, who is also Max’s godfather. Mazzulla called the initiative a way to show his commitment to Max, but also an opportunity to understand individuals and families with autism and meet them where they’re at. 

“This cause is important to me because it’s about children, it’s about people who are dealing with something that’s uncontrollable,” Mazzulla said.

According to the CDC, autism affects an estimated 1 in 36 children and 1 in 45 adults in the United States today. For Coach Morrison, the shoes are a way to help bring acceptance and awareness to the court. 

“These individuals, they’re not lesser or better or worse, or anything like that. They’re just different,” Morrison said when asked what he hopes NBA fans watching this week take away from the campaign. “Just [be] kind to people that are different than yourself.”