Ben McLemore recalled his difficult upbringing in Wellston, Mo., one of the poorest communities in the state, and vowed to do his part to help those there see they could rise above their situations.
The NBA recognized McLemore’s efforts Friday, when it was announced he’d won the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for December for in his charitable contributions and commitment to fight childhood hunger.
McLemore sponsored meals for his hometown in addition to families in Sacramento and Lawrence, Kan., where he played at the University of Kansas.
“It meant a lot to me, growing up in the St. Louis area where I’m from and a lot of people didn’t come back to give back to us in the community,” McLemore said of the honor. “And to have the opportunity that I have to give back to my home and in Sacramento is truly a blessing.”
McLemore established All 4 Kids along with his high school basketball coach in 2013. It’s a nonprofit organization that aims to provide healthy meals to children in need.
In December, All 4 Kids sponsored a holiday meal and presents for 150 homeless children at the Lawrence Community Shelter in Kansas. All 4 Kids also organized a holiday party at the St. Louis Transitional Hope House. McLemore and his family gave out 200 presents, along with dinner and holiday treats for every resident.
McLemore also treated 10 kids in Sacramento to a shopping spree at Wal-Mart before Christmas with the only stipulation being the children had to select a present for their parents first.
McLemore said he plans to continue to help in the community beyond the holidays.
“So they can see there’s always an opportunity, there’s always a way to overcome those obstacles,” McLemore said. “I did it, and the things I’m doing now can motivate them to push hard in school, work harder each and every day to keep progressing. I’m going to stick with it for the rest of my career. That’s just the type of guy I am – love giving back.”
NBA Cares Ambassador Bob Lanier, Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive, president Chris Granger and general manager Pete D’Alessandro presented McLemore with the David Robinson Plaque.
The NBA will also donate $10,000 on McLemore’s behalf to Wind Youth Services in Sacramento.
Familiar faces – The Miami Heat’s starting center and one of its assistant coaches should have had no problem finding their way around Sacramento before the Kings hosted the Heat on Friday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Former Kings head coach Keith Smart is an assistant on Erik Spoelstra’s staff, and former Kings second-round pick Hassan Whiteside starts at center.
Smart took over for Paul Westphal during the 2011-12 season and was not retained by the new Kings ownership after the 2012-13 season.
Whiteside was a second-round pick of the Kings in 2010 and cut in July 2012 when they signed guard Aaron Brooks.
Whiteside’s journey back to the NBA took him to the NBA Development League and overseas before he finally stuck with the Heat.
Whiteside didn’t express any hard feelings toward Sacramento.
“I just had a couple of rough patches,” Whiteside said.
Smart joined the Heat this season after sitting out last season, which he could afford to do because he still had a year left on his Kings contract.
Spoelstra said Smart’s experience as a head coach, and more specifically player development, made him appealing.
“That‘s what he’s done his whole career,” Spoelstra said. “... And you also have to enjoy the people you work with. And I think anybody that’s ever come across Keith likes him.”
Malone movement – Former Kings coach Michael Malone has found work as a consultant with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Several teams and coaches have inquired about having Malone help their coaching staffs. He was fired by the Kings on Dec. 14.