2021 All-Star Game will lead to children’s projects across Indiana

By Brandon Barger
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS–Communities around Indiana will be getting new basketball courts and other facilities as part of a million-dollar “Legacy Project” that is an off-shoot of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, the first to be held in Indianapolis since 1958.

Rick Fuson, president and chief operating officer for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, summed up the idea behind the program in one sentence:

“Not only do we grow basketball here, we grow community here too.”

Rick Fuson, president and chief operating officer of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, speaks during the press conference to announce the 2021 NBA All-Star Game Legacy Project in Indianapolis on Tuesday.
Photo by Brandon Barger, TheStatehouseFile.com

The initiative, funded by the All-Star Game host committee and its partners, will give grants of up to $50,000 to 21 youth-oriented non-profits that are focused on health and fitness or education. In addition to basketball courts, the capital improvement projects are expected to include playgrounds, reading areas and labs for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

Organizers will also award college scholarships to 21 seniors graduating in 2021 who live in the communities where the projects will be built. The selected youths – dubbed
“Rising Stars” — will serve as honorary chairs of the local projects and recruit other young people to participate in the build-up to the All-Star Game.

Fuson, Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Tamika Catchings, vice president of Indiana Fever Basketball Operations, announced the program Tuesday in a press conference on the basketball court at the governor’s residence.

Pacers legend Darnell “Dr. Dunk” Hillman teaches kids from the Shepherd Community Center dribbling drills after the press conference to announce the 2021 NBA All-Star Game Legacy Project in Indianapolis on Tuesday.
Photo by Brandon Barger, TheStatehouseFile.com

The program, Holcomb said, would be the “gift that keeps on giving” for the community long after the final whistle blows on the All-Star Game.

And while the game is held in Indianapolis, Catchings said the program will impact the state as a whole.

“We want all corners of our fine state to have a lasting memory and, more importantly, a legacy to befit our youth long after the All-Star Game,” Catchings said.

The program may also give a needed boost of positive publicity for the NBA, which has become embroiled this week in controversy after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted out his support for the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong. The now deleted tweet sparked outrage in the China, with many of the Chinese sponsors of the NBA have pulled out of deals.

Asked about the situation, Holcomb – who recently returned from a trade mission to China — said he tries to “stay on my own court.”

But, he added, “We will work our way through this.”

After the announcement, Holcomb, Catchings, Fever center Natalie Achonwa and Pacers legend Darnell “Dr. Dunk” Hillman played basketball with children from the Shepherd Community Center, with Holcomb even chasing down the balls when the kids missed.

The All-Star Game will be held on Feb. 14, 2021, with events happening in the days leading jup to the game. Nonprofits have until the end of this year to submit applications for the grants at http://pacers.com/all-star-legacy. Winners will be announced after the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago.

Brandon Barger is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.

 

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