If you turn on an NBA basketball game this season, you will see commercials featuring the league’s best participating in some form of community outreach program, leaving ear-to-ear grins on the faces of starry-eyed children.
On Sunday, it was Brooklyn Nets superstar Brook Lopez’s turn to give back.
Despite arriving in New York that morning after a game in Memphis the previous night, Lopez hosted the Citi Brook Lopez Basketball ProCamp for around 90 children between the ages of 6 and 18 on Sunday morning at Queens College in Flushing.
The camp featured the 2013 NBA All-Star rotating through the different pickup games going on throughout Fitzgerald Gymnasium, playing in each game for around 10 minutes each.
The 7-foot-tall Lopez, a six-year veteran, also signed autographs, took pictures with the kids, took part in a question-and-answer segment and demonstrated the different drills that he works on during Brooklyn Nets practices.
While the kids all seemed to thoroughly enjoy their morning with an NBA superstar, it was the still-young Lopez who might have enjoyed the experience the most.
“It’s so great to just go out there and play with them,” Lopez said. “I’m just 25 so I was doing these camps not that long ago and have very fond memories of that.”
“That’s why I want to come out here and bring as much energy as possible and really interact with them,” he added, “and leave each and every one of them with a specific memory they can take away from this.”
The camp attracted kids from all over the city and all over the tri-state area, with some driving almost two hours to see their child play with Lopez, who became the ninth Nets player in history to score 6,000 career points in their Saturday win over Memphis.
Sharon Lien drove from Suffolk County to bring her 15-year-old son, Nick, to the camp, something she said he’ll never forget.
“He’ll be talking about this for weeks. He loves the Nets,” Lien said as she watched her son play. “This means everything to him. It’s a great experience.”
As a child, Lopez went to similar basketball camps with his twin brother Robin. They eventually played college basketball at Stanford together and were both drafted in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft, Brook by the then-New Jersey Nets and Robin by the Phoenix Suns.
Much like the Lopez brothers as children, the Rodriguez brothers, 6-year-old Hudson and 8-year-old A.J., were thoroughly enjoying their time at the camp, according to their father, Hector Rodriguez.
“It’s a great experience, it goes a long way for them,” Rodriguez said. “In 10 years, they’ll look back and say ‘Wow, I played with Brook Lopez.’”
During the offseason, the Nets acquired future Hall-of-Fame center Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics, and much like the kids learned from Lopez on Sunday, Lopez has been learning from Garnett, one of the best players of a generation.
“He’s taught me little tricks, secret stuff,” Lopez joked. “It’s great to hear support from him and hear what I can work on.”