Today is July 1st, 2010. It is a day which has been anticipated for years in the NBA. Free agency officially began last night at 12:01am and teams are scramblinfg to acquire players from the greatest free agent pool in history: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzski, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce... These eight players alone have been selected to the All-Star Game a combined 44 times!
University of Illinois at Chicago economist John Skorburg estimates James' impact on the city of Chicago could be worth as much as 2.7 billion if he chooses to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Bars will be full, TVs will be on, jerseys will be sold, but what about the charitable impact? This article nicely summarizes the charitable side of the NBA's top free agents. The Bulls are all but guaranteed to acquire at least one if not two "big names" this summer. What impact can these players' foundations have on Chicago?
My colleague Dan Bassill wrote an article last week about Chris Bosh and the potential of athletes to use their star power to draw more consistent attention to tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. Tutor/Mentor Connection already has ties to the Bulls. They donated a team autographed pennant to be auctioned off at our Golf Benefit on July 15th.
What will it take to assign athletes ownership of our mission? What will it take to get LeBron James or Chris Bosh or whoever comes to Chicago to give a shout-out to Tutor/Mentor Connection or host a volunteer recruitment fair?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that we must demand this type of action from professional athletes who are role models to our kids. In the same way that we expect 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists a game from LeBron, we should expect charitable giving and community activism. Enjoy the drama of free agency, and hopefully by the 4th of July we'll have even more to celebrate.