Thunder, NBA Cares Visit City Rescue Mission

A staple of the Thunder’s community service schedule during each of the four seasons the team has been in Oklahoma City, the City Rescue Mission received an extra special visit on Wednesday afternoon.

Thunder Chairman and CEO Clay Bennett, Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti, Head Coach Scott Brooks, and NBA Commissioner David Stern were joined by Derek Fisher and five other Thunder players as the team, along with HP and State Farm, opened a new NBA Cares Learn & Play Center at the City Rescue Mission. The Thunder’s relationship with the Mission revolves mostly around serving an annual holiday meal, and the unified relationship was on display for all to see on Wednesday. A blown away Stern delivered a two-word statement that summed up the event.

“It’s inspiring,” Stern said.

The mission holds 640 beds for homeless or needy members of the Oklahoma City community, and the Mission, already decked out in Thunder logos, was given an even bigger boost. With the Learn & Play Center, the City Rescue Mission has a refurbished common area, reading room with new books and technology lab with brand new HP computers and printers. This is simply another step in the relationship the Thunder and the Mission has forged, and Mission President and CEO Tom Jones described how that bond has deepened.

“In 2008, the Oklahoma City Thunder came to have a partnership with the City Rescue Mission,” Jones said. “Since that time they’ve been down here many times, sharing their influence in the lives that they serve.”

Throughout this shortened, condensed, hectic season, the Thunder and its players didn’t waver in its commitment to the Oklahoma City community. With weekly Rolling Thunder Book Bus, Fit Clinic and Homeland shopping events, Thunder players devoted time to helping children and families in the area. It was no surprise then, that Brooks, Fisher, Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson were all present for Wednesday’s event.

“We love the game and it’s a great game and we all play with passion and our players are determined and focused,” Brooks said. “But you always have to put things in perspective. It’s about relationships, it’s about life experiences that you always will cherish and remember forever.”

According to Coach Brooks, it was an exclamation point to the season, which was filled with service events. The fact that the event took place on the day between home NBA Finals games was a perfect example of the way the Thunder operated in the community all year.

“It is the NBA Finals, it’s the biggest stage an NBA player or coach can be on, but it’s also about giving back to your community,” Brooks said. “Our players do a wonderful job and that’s who they are. They’re not forced to do this, they enjoy doing it and there’s not a better place for our players to give back to our community and be around young kids and see the smiles it puts on their faces, words can’t describe it. It’s a great feeling to be around it.”

Presti, the architect of this Thunder organization that has not only brought in incredible talent but also outstanding human beings, was also enjoying the ribbon-cutting ceremony. As he watched the players in attendance interact with the children in the new Center, Presti reflected on the type of people who populate the Thunder roster, and the way they connect with the community as a whole.

“We’re very fortunate to have good people that wear our uniform,” Presti said. “Nobody is perfect, but the intent of these guys is pure. I really believe that they understand what it means to wear Oklahoma City across their chests and the value that. The big reason why they value that is because of the civic pride that exists here.”

To sum up the relationship the Thunder has with Oklahoma City, there can be no better example than how the team has maintained its bond with the City Rescue Mission. Further validation comes from players like Fisher, who has been an ambassador for the NBA for 15 seasons. The fact that Fisher only joined the Thunder in mid-March but already has tapped into the connection the city and team has speaks volumes about the Thunder organization’s efforts. As he took the podium, Fisher put the whole visit into perspective and vocalized the Thunder’s feelings about their role in the community and how places like the City Rescue Mission impact the community.

“We just want to say thank you,” Fisher said. “Because even though a lot of the focus is on us as a team and what we’re trying to do to get ourselves one of these nice things right here (The Larry O’Brien trophy) we feel it is the work that you do on a daily basis that far outweighs anything we could ever do on the basketball court.”