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Over the summer, athletes from Special Olympics Nippon (Japan) and Philippines had the privilege to meet NBA personalities such as Dikembe Mutombo, Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra and Brooklyn Nets’ Brook Lopez.

Basketball Without Borders in Asia

On 16 June, 53 Special Olympics Nippon athletes from all over Japan enjoyed their first Basketball Without Borders (BW) Clinic with Dikembe Mutombo, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and NBA Global Ambassador.  The athletes also got court timewith Samuel Dalembert (Houston Rockets), Vladimir Radmanovic (Atlanta Hawks) and Corey Brewer (Denver Nuggets) for the hour long clinic in Tokyo.

A partnership between the US-based NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), BWB is touring Asia for the first time advocating leadership, education, sportsmanship and healthy living in four day camps around the region . During the clinic, Special Olympics athletes visited five stations that focused on skills  such as dribbling, shooting and passing.

NBA Cares for Filipino Athletes

Special Olympics Philippines athletes experienced the NBA Cares Program twice in the month of August, meeting Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra (‘Coach Spo’) and Brooklyn Nets’ Brook Lopez in separate sessions.

For Coach Spo, the Special Olympics experience was twofold; giving back to a game he loves, and being able to do  that in his home country (he is half Filipino). He led the athletes in drills and constantly encouraged them with hi-fives during the relays and games. At the end of his session, he shared: “You guys did an excellent job, keep up the good work. Everybody, let’s hear it for them for being able to persevere despite the challenges in front of them.”

Coach Spo presented the athletes with Miami Heat championship shirts and balloons and posed for pictures with the group. Kaye Sampson, Special Olympics Philippines National Director, remembers: “Our athletes were all smiles. Some who had bowling practice later that afternoon were still wearing their Heat shirts proudly!”

Bonding with Brook

A week later, the athletes were invited again by NBA Cares Philippines to an event led by Brooklyn Nets’ seven foot tall Brook Lopez and the NBA dancers, Charlotte Lady Cats. The program was an opener for the NBA Sprite 3×3 Finals. The athletes were placed in teams, lead by a Lady Cat. Brook and the Lady Cats then led them in ball-drills, lay-up drills, and ball games. At the end of the session, Brook presented a signed jersey to Kaye and Special Olympics Philippines Basketball Head Coach Jose Rene Torres.

Kaye concludes, “August is a month that Special Olympics Philippines will never forget. The smiles of our athletes, parents, and coaches did not end on the court. The confidence and pride will remain in their hearts, thanks to NBA Cares.”

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