NBA players race from practices to film sessions to shootarounds to the weight room. Then after home games, they hop on planes to go to cities dotted all across the country to play away games, only to come back and repeat the process dozens of times throughout the season. For a moment, even just a couple of hours, it’s nice for these players to forget about the rigors of the game and witness a different side of life.
Just before the regular season is set to begin on Thursday with a road game against the San Antonio Spurs, three Thunder players visited the OU Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, greeting and mingling with children who are suffering from a variety of serious ailments. On Tuesday, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson all took time out of their schedules and gave it to those in need.
“This is an unbelievable experience,” Durant said. “Just to see how many kids are fighting for their lives but still manage to be smiling and are excited and happy to see us. It’s just a blessing to know that we can impact their lives.”
From signing autographs to playing video games with kids and even simply just sitting and chatting, the Thunder trio found a way to create happiness and a lively atmosphere in a place that on many days must be a difficult environment. The experience was so inspirational that Durant said it brought him an intense level of perspective, something he will think about this season.
“It’s a tough time in their life, but everybody is smiling,” Durant said. “It makes me feel good and makes me wake up every morning and be thankful and know that somebody is out here just fighting for their life. I just want to play for all these kids here today. Every game I want to dedicate to these kids here. It just gives me the extra push every time I wake up in the morning.”
Not only was it a life-changing day for the Thunder players as they joined in on the kids' Halloween party at the hospital, the children and their families had a great time as well. For children who often don’t get to see the Thunder play, let alone leave the ICU or their wings of the hospital, it was a special treat to have the trio visit with them and brighten their day.
“It’s been a great day and I’m happy to see KD and them,” nine-year old Ramon Hill said. “I had my shirt signed and all that… It was very special and I’m happy to see the Thunder players.”
Ramon’s mother, Mardwinyta Hill, smiled from ear to ear as she watched her young son chat it up with Durant. Thunder banners, t-shirts and towels were in the hands of each child and parent, as Durant, Ibaka and Jackson made sure to spend time with everyone and touch each of their lives.
“It was a wonderful day because he’s been sick with respiratory problems,” Mardwinyta Hill said. “The nurses have done a good job of getting him well, and he was well enough to come down and meet the Thunder players… I think it’s a really good thing that the ones who made it today came down to see all the kids. I know it made all the kids feel good and I know it makes the parents feel good to see their kids feel good.”
Durant asked about many of the children, and even inquired if he could go into the ICU and see a child who wasn’t able to come out into the main room in the hospital where the meet-and-greet was taking place.
Meanwhile, Ibaka played some video games with some of the youngsters and handed out wristbands, while Jackson was busy drawing with kids on the massive chalkboard and doling out laughs like assists. All in all, it was a wonderful day that brought joy to both the players and children and families in need of a pick-me-up.
“It’s just great fun giving back,” Jackson said. “I’m coming in here and trying to put a smile on these kids’ faces, especially with circumstances and situations that they’re going through and everything they’re dealing with. It’s fun to give back, and they definitely bring a smile to our faces as well.”
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