By: Jon Mladic
Most fans see the highly-publicized, immature actions of a few NBA players and assume the rest of the league is filled with similar individuals. But truthfully, the NBA has more than its fair share of nice guys. Here are some of the favorites of the HOOPSWORLD staff:
Rashard Lewis. Despite making upwards of $17 million a year, Rashard is often the first on the floor warming up and one of the last remaining in the arena - either in the locker room answering questions from the media or signing autographs for fans. But it's not just his work ethic that makes Rashard an NBA nice guy. Off the court, he made starting a charity in his name a goal from his first day in the NBA. As he told the Seattle Times, "I feel like I owe my community." That feeling carries through to today. This August, Rashard participated in a Celebrity Golf Classic that raised thousands of dollars for children in the community.
Jermaine O'Neal. In addition to the charity work he has done around Indianapolis, JO treats others with respect and seems to have retained a genuine love for the game, as evidenced by the smile he always seems to be wearing. He has twice won the NBA Community Assist Award for his work improving the quality of life for children in the Indianapolis community. Perhaps more than any other NBA player, O'Neal understood the commitment he made to the Pacers then he signed a contract also extended to the Indianapolis community. Some recent events of his foundation include a Celebrity Poker Tournament and the Jermaine O'Neal Super Shootout (a basketball tournament that showcases local basketball talent as well as raises funds for leadership development).
Jason Terry. The Jet once told HOOPSWORLD that the toughest job in the NBA is that of a player's wife. Simply the site of his daughters in their Pink Mavs jerseys with "Terry" on the back is enough to convince most he is a nice guy. Some other evidence: Building Leaders for Tomorrow Summerscope Camp awarded him the 2007 Image Leader Award In Sports for "his profound impact on Dallas youth and commitment to his community." Still not convinced? How about the fact that he donated - for the second year in a row - $100 for ever 3-point he made during the season to Gilda's Club of North Texas, an organization that provides meeting places for cancer patients, their families and supporters. That totalled $16,400 last season, a figure matched by an anonymous donor and the Credit Union of Texas.
Michael Redd. Always honest, professional, and open, Redd never turns down a question and stays to face the media after every game. He works hard and treats everyone around him well. Perhaps most telling is the source of his own satisfaction: he is always the happiest when a teammate excels. The son of a minister, he has held on to his family values. He recently bought a new church for his father, and his personal touch with the Michael Redd Foundation is obvious. Equally as apparent is how much Redd cares for others around him.
Shane Battier. A tremendously positive person, his influence in the locker has a big influence on other players. Active in politics and with the NBA Cares program, Battier is a true role model. Mirroring his positive influence on his teammates, Shane's influence recently produced a $1.3 million commitment to the Shane Battier Franchise Scholarship Intitiative from Service Master. He also recently worked with the Boys and Girls Club of South Oakland County to award two $20,000 college scholarships through the Battier Family Foundation, an initiative he hopes to carry all the way to the Houston Boys and Girls Club.
Alonzo Mourning. The most recent recipient of the NBA Cares award, Alonzo has a longstanding track record of giving back to the community. He started the Alonzo Mourning Charities in 1997 and has grown 'Zo's Summer Groove,' the charity's largest fundraiser, for twelve years. He also has worked to promote the Overtown Youth Center in South Florida and the Honey Shine Mentoring Program, which is a set of workshops and camps aimed at improving young girls' self-images by developing in them a strong sense of self. Recently, he has also worked with Dwyane Wade to raise money to support educational organizations in the Miami area.
Perhaps the best part of choosing which players are some of the NBA's Nice Guys is knowing the list is not complete. There are plenty of other, deserving players that spend much more time improving their communities and the lives of those around them than they do focusing on themselves. There are plenty of reasons to support role models like these, even if they aren't on your favorite team. In fact, chances are that at least one player from your hometown team belongs on a list like this.