Crowns and Tiaras: Paul George, Patrick Patterson Tip Their Hats to Positive Tomorrows
Twisting a couple of pipe cleaners in blue and sunset while sliding a handful of acrylic basketball beads to sit at the bent corners, Paul George forged a crown for a special coronation of sorts.
With both hands in a display of grandeur, he raised the fuzzy-wired head piece, then lowered it on the pate of his young tablemate seated next to him. George patted the boy’s shoulder in congratulations followed by yays and applause all around inside the buzzing atrium of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library.
“You have been crowned King of Hoops.”
Celebrating National Hat Day, George along with teammate Patrick Patterson practiced their skills in the art of hat-making with students from Positive Tomorrows, a school for homeless children.
The surprise visit gave the Thunder frontcourt tandem a chance to not only flex their artistic side, but also to share laughs and smiles with the boys and girls on hand. The time spent working on creative pursuits with the kids made George to arrive at a poignant observation about his fellow artists.
“I think what stands out is how great of people that they are. They don’t show any signs of frustration or discouragement; it’s all smiles,” said George. “At the end of the day, we want to let these kids know we’re in their corner pulling for them.”
Meanwhile, Patterson held court at a table operating in worker-bee fashion nearby while admiring the students’ handiwork of glittery tiaras and braided halos woven in shades of Thunder colors. Having the good-humored Patterson at their table siphoned the shyness from the initially quiet kids into full-bore discourse about school and life.
“Anytime you’re in an environment like this, it allows you to also be a kid and engage with them not only in conversations about their lives, but also they’re eager to know about us,” said Patterson.
Soon enough, the students gifted Patterson with his own hat complete with the number 54 prominently etched across the centerpiece.
As he put on his custom chapeau, Patterson heard jangling from his hat. It was attached with bells. To his amusement, he started bobbing his head for stretches at a time out of reflex. The jangling transformed Patterson into a life-sized bobblehead.
Working with the students reminded George of his own artistic endeavors when he was their age. George as a grade-schooler escaped to his sketch pad at every opportunity. Art classes sparked his creativity as a kid.
“That was one of the best parts of school. Let your imagination make the hours go by quick,” he said. “I used to draw basketball players, action heroes and cartoon characters. Anything that I had seen or saw that day or that night that was on my mind, I try to recreate.”
For Teresa Matthews with the Metropolitan Library System, George and Patterson delivered a unique experience with the subtext of striving toward personal growth and enrichment for the students in which they may of otherwise not have.
"These kids often move around a lot and they may not spend a lot of time in one place. So they miss out on these opportunities,” said Matthews. “So having the Thunder come here gives them a sense of normalcy and let’s them do things every other peer does.”
Inspired by the day's activities to broaden his horizons, Patterson walked to the library information desk. After exchanging greetings, the clerk behind the computer clicked-clacked away to help one of her tallest patrons. Patterson left the desk with a satisfying smile on his face. He registered for a library card.
Creative pursuits. George: "The imagination and creativity of these kids are pretty amazing. It was fun for me connecting with these kids." Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
Pat in the Hat. Patterson looks for help from his table of talented young artisans. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
This is why we play. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
Watch: George, Patterson Celebrate National Hat Day