White Hot for the Community

The Miami Heat are arguably the most dominant team in the NBA right now. Ever since the “Big Three” joined forces in July 2010, the Heat have overwhelmed opponents with their sheer talent and athleticism. The “white hot” Heat’s hardwood brilliance has uplifted South Florida; a region hit especially hard by the current economic crisis. While millions know about the team’s on-the-court greatness and its value to the city, few acknowledge the Heat’s off-the-court contributions to the community.

The Miami Heat kicked off their annual summer “Learn to Swim” campaign with the 11th Annual HEAT April Pool’s Day event on April 9, according to the Heat’s website. The event featured Heat players Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf alongside the Heat Dancers giving fun swimming lessons to Riverside Elementary School students. Two days later, the Heat threw their Third Annual HEAT Beach Sweep, an event where Miami Heat organizational members and volunteers from the community teamed up to plant mangroves and a butterfly garden while collecting trash and cleaning up Florida’s beloved shores. Some of the team’s other recent events include an evening celebration that raised more than $1 million for local charities, feeding thehomeless in Miami, and a charity golf tournament. When it is not game time, the team goes out of their way to support philanthropic community programs and improve the environment. Miami’s “Big Three” is the most feared trio of athletes in the NBA, but a different picture is painted of these men upon looking at the charitable work LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have each done in the past.

Chris Bosh plays like a naturally selfless individual. Even as the Toronto Raptors’ star power forward, Bosh was far more willing than most other high usage players around the league to pass the rock to an open teammate when facing defensive pressure; as opposed to powering through the defense or taking the bad shot. In June 2005, Bosh earned the NBA’s monthly Community Assist Award for his dedication to youth through the Chris Bosh Foundation. Established in 2004, the foundation has programs in Toronto and Dallas, Bosh’s hometown, that give SAT prep courses, award scholarships and holds sports’ camps. In 2008, Bosh donated $75,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and served as the organization’s national spokesperson from 2008-2010. After becoming a member of the Heat, Bosh founded another charity organization called Team Tomorrow in order to support Miami’s community. Team Tomorrow has participated in activities ranging from serving Thanksgiving meals to the homeless to honoring the troops on Veterans’ Day.

Lebron James’ game time generosity is quite obvious on the stat sheet. The Akron, Ohio native is 28th on the all-time list for assists per game over a career (6.90); ahead of guys like Gary Payton, Jerry West, Lenny Wilkens and Larry Bird. James is also ninth out of all active players in assists per game over a career, but the current NBA MVP leads all active non-point guards by more than two assists per game. As a natural playmaker, LeBron is used to supplying his teammates with offensive opportunities, but little is said about the opportunities James gives to today’s youth. On May 1, James and Khan Academy (an online learning program that offers educational videos, problems and others resources for teachers and students) teamed up to create more engaging math and science content for children. On the same day, James launched a new website for the LeBron James Family Foundation (LJFF), an organization founded in 2004 to keep children physically fit, academically-minded and environmentally-friendly. The site’s goals are to expand the foundation’s presence, while giving fans another way to connect with James and see his community work. A public service announcement released on January 11 featured James drawing awareness to the large number of high school dropouts and calling on adults to offer support to students.

South Florida’s favorite current athlete, Dwyane Wade, is the epitome of toughness and assertiveness on the hardwood. “D-Wade’s” reckless playing style earns him plenty of free throws, but exposes him to a plethora of hard fouls. That toughness reflects his passion for the sport, but Wade also has a passion to serve the community, and his strong ties to his faith are evident in his play. Ever since his days at Marquette, Wade wore the number three on his jersey to honor the Holy Trinity, according to the Heat’s website. He even dribbles three times before every free throw and tithes 10 percent of his salary to a Chicago church. ABC?News reports that Wade’s mother, Jolinda Wade, received money from her son to purchase a church building for her non-denominational ministry. Wade’s World, a non-profit organization founded by Wade in 2003, supports and reaches out to the youth in Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida. A $25,000 donation from Wade prevented the Robbins, Illinois public library from closing in 2009. The “Athletes Relief Fund for Haiti” was created by Wade and Alonzo Mourning (who Wade co-hosts ZO’s Summer Groove with), and raised $800,000 in relief aid after the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010. “Flash” even donated a house, clothes and furnishings on Christmas Eve, 2008, to a South Florida resident whose home burned down.

“Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:24-25).

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God” (Hebrews 13:16). God is proud of people who use their time and energy to help others in need. He affirms in His word that generous acts benefit both the giver and receiver. The Miami Heat’s charity work has set a commendable precedent for all people to follow, especially believers who are called to love others the same way that God loves them (John 15:12).

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