More than a game for NBA’s ‘Melo’


He’s best known for his skill and shooting abilities on court. But there are far more important things in life than just shooting hoops and scoring points, says NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony.

The 10-time NBA All-Star excels off the court, too, in his philanthropic work.

“Charity work is important for anybody, especially for those of us who are in a privileged position to make a difference in this world,” Anthony told Independent Media this week. 

Anthony, affectionately known as “Melo”, has made charity a priority in his life. In the US, the former Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder player heads up the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, which runs outreach programmes and donations. 

The mission of the non-profit organisation is to impact the lives of those living in under-served communities through education, recreation and community outreach, and aims to broaden his charity work outside the US.

When the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) invited Anthony to accompany it on a visit to South Africa, he jumped at the chance. An ambassador for the NBPA, he and a handful of fellow NBA players arrived on Tuesday to take part in the “More Than a Game” youth leadership programme, which kicked off in Johannesburg this week. 

In partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the NBPA was established to create a cultural exchange and bring together young Americans and South Africans who are community leaders and activists.

This is to create a dialogue around their realities and what they can learn from Mandela’s life and legacy.

The programme has brought four students from the Voyce Project, a youth organising alliance for education and racial justice led by learners of colour, based in Chicago, to Johannesburg to join four from Tshimanga public speaking and leadership organisation based in Joburg.

Together, the eight participants will have the opportunity to explore the intersection between basketball and social activism, in celebration of the centenary of the birth of Madiba.

Anthony was delighted to be part of the initiative: “I know what Nelson Mandela stood for. I know what his foundation stands for. I know what the NBPA stands for, so it was only right for the NBPA to partner up with the foundation to bring kids all the way from Chicago and give them opportunities to see the country, meet the locals, and for them to get a feel like of what life is like on this side of the world.” 

Anthony said he has always looked to Mandela for inspiration: “Mandela is the epitome of what freedom stands for, what justice stands for. He taught us all to believe in ourselves and to stand up for what we believe in, and to make things happen in life.

“He (Mandela) always put everybody else first before himself, and that speaks volumes about what the man was all about. I can go on and on about what Mandela did.” 

Apart from working with the NBPA on the “More Than a Game” initiative, Anthony will unveil a pair of basketball courts he has donated in Soweto.

He is also on the lookout for a community project in Joburg to support.

“We’ll be walking through Soweto (this week) and interacting with locals. I’m really excited to meet everyone, to see what is happening in the community, and to be a part of what I am creating while I am here in Johannesburg.”

The city, he added, was his first stop in his bid to expand his charity work internationally.

Meanwhile, participants of the “More Than a Game” initiative will attend the third NBA Africa Game this week, and have the chance to interact with Anthony and his teammates through community service events. 

“Nelson Mandela understood the role that sports could play in building a just and fair society.

“We are excited to join with these students in celebrating his life and his legacy,” said Sherrie Deans, the executive director of the NBPA Foundation.

Sello Hatang, the chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, was pleased to have partnered with the NBPA. “We’re thrilled to be involved in this initiative, which affirms our position as trusted conveners of dialogue focusing on key issues that impact on societal justice,” said Hatang.