On Sunday afternoon, Special Olympics athletes from across the world showed a cheering crowd at NBA All-Star Jam Session the unifying power of sport.
Chen Xiao Shan of China from Team East goes for a loose ball.
A Come-from-behind Victory
New Orleans, Louisiana- Eleven Special Olympics athletes teamed up with NBA and WNBA players and legends in a Unified Sports game (where athletes with and without intellectual disability play on the same team). Team West got out to an early lead, but Team East slowly chipped away at the gap, to take the lead in the second half and emerge victorious, with a final score of 63-53. For the first-time ever, the Special Olympics Unified Sports®
Basketball Game was carried live on ESPN3, reaching the United States and additional viewers in Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand. A replay of the game is now available on ESPN3 at http://es.pn/UnifiedGame.
Led by Travis Jackson of Special Olympics Florida, Raymond Macaspac of Special Olympics Philippines, Sephonne Mack of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, Chen Xiao Shan of Special Olympics China and Kadijatou Genevieve Kone of Special Olympics Senegal - Team East (blue jerseys) gave Team West a run for their money the entire game, showing great skill and teamwork on the court alongside their teammates, Dikembe Mutombo, NBA legend and Special Olympics Board of Director and Special Olympics Global Ambassador and NBA legend Ron Harper and WNBA players Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky and Special Olympics Global Ambassador). East Team coaches Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia 76ers) and Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic) were impressed with their team's performance.
"We picked up our defensive intensity in the second half and everyone scored," said Carter-Williams. "We worked hard and had a great time today - everyone played with so much passion and it showed in our results - we were down by 15 and came back strong and took the game. As rookie coaches, I think Vic and I kept our players excited and focused and we got to win!" Carter-Williams is also the Philadelphia 76ers team spokesperson for their partnership with Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
The NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports® basketball game took place at Sprint Arena at NBA All-Star Jam Session on Sunday afternoon, prior to the 63rd NBA All-Star Game. Before the game got underway, seventy-five New Orleans area Special Olympics athletes participated in a skills clinic with NBA All-Star and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers), and NBA legends Darryl Dawkins, Horace Grant and Felipe Lopez. The Unified Game kicked off with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver greeting all of the Special Olympics athletes and the father-son duo of Dell and Stephen Curry conducting the ceremonial ball tip.
WNBA star Ruth Riley chats with Special Olympics Colorado athlete Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl.
"They certainly brought their A-game"
Team West (red jerseys) was coached by Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks) and Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) and included Special Olympics athletes Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl of Colorado, Paul Hoffman of California, Sam Schwab of Wyoming, Jacob Majors of Louisiana and international athletes Valerie Lynch of Ireland and Edwin González of Puerto Rico, as well as Unified teammates NBA legends Detlef Schrempf and A.C. Green and WNBA players Lindsey Harding (Los Angeles Sparks) and Ruth Riley (Atlanta Dream).
"These Special Olympics athletes come from all over the world and were chosen because they are the best in their sport. They certainly brought their A-game," said Trey Burke. "Each and every one of these players pushed the tempo on the court and we are all walking away as winners and showing the true power of unified sports."
Sunday's game was a Unified Sports® experience that gave participants and the public a chance to witness the inclusion that occurs when athletes with and without intellectual disabilities get to play together as teammates. Half a million people worldwide take part in Special Olympics Unified Sports competitions, helping to break down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities.
Sharon Byers, SVP Sports, Entertainment & Community Marketing for Special Olympics Founding Partner Coca-Cola North America, spoke courtside with Sage Steele of ESPN about the history of Unified Sports and this event, "We have grown from a one-on-one backyard relationship to having ESPN and the NBA involved with their support. Together, we are going to continue to make it grow."
The NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports game at NBA All-Star is yet another great part of a long-term global partnership with the NBA, which began more than 30 years ago when the league helped to introduce the sport of basketball to Special Olympics.
NBA Cares is the league's global social responsibility program that builds on the NBA's mission of addressing important social issues in the United States and around the world. Through this program, the NBA, its teams and players have donated more than $230 million to charity, completed more than 2.8 million hours of hands-on community service, and created more than 860 places where kids and families can live, learn, or play, in 25 countries and territories on five continents. NBA Cares works with internationally recognized youth-serving programs that support education, youth and family development, and health-related causes, including: KaBOOM!, Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLAAD.
ESPN3 is ESPN's live multi-screen sports network, a destination that delivers thousands of exclusive sports events annually. It is accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Apple TV and Roku. The network is currently available to more than 85 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day around the world. Through work in sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 70,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage on Twitter ; and Facebook