As one of the 10 NBA teams playing on Christmas Day, the Miami Heat spent a chunk of the holiday working.
But Heat players and coaches spent the days and weeks leading up to Friday’s Christmas Day home opener against the New Orleans Pelicans giving back.
Coach Erik Spoelstra was among the many members of the organization who used the holiday season to give to their communities and charities of choice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the past five weeks leading up to Christmas, Spoelstra and his family partnered with local small businesses to host gift card giveaways while matching each giveaway with a financial donation to the Miami Learning Experience School. Spoelstra and wife, Nikki, donated toys, grocery store gift cards and funds to Health in the Hood; whose mission is to connect low-income families to healthy, free local food by transforming vacant land into vibrant vegetable gardens and teaching wellness groups; along with lunch for pre-selected families in Overtown.
“I think more so than ever this year, everybody has brought a giving spirit to this holiday season,” Spoelstra said. “We’re so fortunate and we’re afforded so many unbelievable things from this profession. But there are a lot of people that are struggling right now. And I think everybody in this organization is giving and trying to help in different areas where people really need it. I’ve really been inspired in hearing about our players and how much they have been giving. We all have enough. And if we can help as many people as we can during this time, we have to make that a priority.”
Among the Heat players who gave back during the holiday season:
▪ Bam Adebayo teamed up with SnapCrack Chiropractic to host a gift donation for the holidays which included toys, bicycles and other gifts for children between the ages of 5-17. All gifts were dropped off at the Samual K. Johnson Youth Center in Liberty City.
Adebayo also provided a Miami single mother of two sets of twins, Travillia Bogan, an entire year’s worth of rent in order to help her avoid eviction. Adebayo is also assisting in updating her landscaping and indoor house decor.
▪ Moe Harkless partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami to host a holiday toy and food distribution drive-through event for children from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami program. He also donated $10,000 to the organization.
▪ Udonis Haslem’s foundation, The Udonis Haslem Children’s Foundation, partnered with New Mount Olive Baptist Church to host their second annual “Christmas for the Community” Weekend. The weekend included a drive-through toy giveaway for underprivileged families.
▪ Tyler Herro, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, surprised 10 children and their families with a holiday Zoom party and gift cards.
▪ Meyers Leonard, along with the Miami VA Healthcare System, hosted a virtual holiday gift distribution for the women’s veterans clinic. The clinic provides comprehensive health services to female veterans and transitions homeless veterans into housing and stable employment. The virtual holiday event featured 40 veteran mothers and over 100 children.
Leonard and his wife, Elle, also donated about $20,000 to the Armed Forces program for the American Red Cross.
▪ Kendrick Nunn hosted a digital holiday giveaway on Instagram to gift some fans with basketball gear to celebrate the holidays.
▪ KZ Okpala teamed up with Operation Warm to donate 500,000 winter coats to children in his hometown of Anaheim, California.
▪ Duncan Robinson hosted a virtual meet and greet with children from the YMCA.
▪ Gabe Vincent hosted a holiday giveaway on his social media, gifting one follower with a variety of gifts that including an autographed Heat City Edition “Vice Wave” jersey.
As an organization, the Heat partnered with the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless on their Annual Christmas Eve Party for their residents and families. During the event, guests received gifts from their wish list while meeting donors virtually.
NBA LIFE DURING A PANDEMIC
Spoelstra continues to credit Heat head athletic trainer Jay Sabol for helping to create the team’s mini quarantine bubble at AmericanAirlines Arena. The hope is that bubble follows the Heat on road trips amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been much more of a demand of everybody in this business,” Spoelstra said. “I really empathize for Jay. He is our chief COVID officer right now, and his office, effectively, is in the [AmericanAirlines Arena] garage. Before we even enter the building, we have to check in with him, do our temperature check, and then get tested. So I would say he’s probably out there at least eight hours of his day and then he returns to his office after that. And that’s not necessarily fair, but nothing is really fair or right right now. Everybody’s having to adjust and make the best of it. And he has just been phenomenal with his organization with this and his communication with everybody from players to staff to everybody who’s in this building, with the requirements.”
The NBA announced Thursday that of the 558 players tested for COVID-19 since Dec. 16, two new players returned confirmed positive tests. Anyone who returns a confirmed positive test is isolated until they are cleared for leaving isolation.
▪ Veteran forward Andre Iguodala said Heat president Pat Riley spoke to the team on Thursday about the importance of keeping the proper perspective during an uncertain time that includes playing games in the middle of a pandemic.
“Godfather Pat had some encouraging words today, in terms of, you know, sometimes you just have to take a step back and have proper perspective on certain things,” Iguodala said. “… In the grand scheme of things, we’re all blessed to have the jobs that we have. And we’ve got to continue to be responsible, continue to be safe, follow the proper protocols.”
▪ Heat wing Jimmy Butler (sprained right ankle) was in the starting lineup against the Pelicans, but he did not play in the second half because of right ankle stiffness. Butler was listed as questionable for the contest.
Also, Leonard moved into the starting lineup Friday in Harkless’ place. Leonard did not play in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Orlando Magic.