The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Special Olympics today announced that New Orleans Pelicans guard and 2017 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge participant Buddy Hield, as well as fellow BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge competitors Brandon Ingram, Frank Kaminsky, Marquese Chriss, and Dario Saric, and ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, will serve as honorary coaches for the East and West teams for the sixth annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified® Basketball Game at NBA All-Star 2017. For the second consecutive year, reigning two-time Kia NBA MVP Stephen Curry will tip off the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday Feb. 18 at 9:30 a.m. CT.
The exhibition game pairs 12 Special Olympics athletes—including two from Louisiana—representing eight countries with NBA and WNBA players and legends, including Hall of Famer and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo , NBA Legend Muggsy Bogues, Special Olympics Global Ambassador Elena Delle Donne and WNBA Cares Ambassador Ruth Riley for the East, and four-time NBA Champion Horace Grant, three-time NBA Champion A.C. Green, 2016 WNBA Finals MVP Candace Parker and three-time WNBA Champion Lindsay Whalen for the West.
Showcasing the unifying power of sport since the first game at NBA All-Star 2012, the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified® Basketball Game creates a diverse and inclusive environment for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Prior to the game, NBA Cares Ambassador Felipe Lopez, WNBA Cares Ambassador Ruth Riley and NBA Legends Horace Grant and John Starks will join athletes from Special Olympics Louisiana for a basketball clinic on court.
“We’re thrilled to bring the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified® Basketball Game to New Orleans for the second time,” said NBA Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility Todd Jacobson. “This unified game highlights the power of basketball to break down barriers and bring people together in fun and rewarding ways."
Horace Grant, four-time NBA Champion
A.C. Green, three-time NBA Champion
Candace Parker, 2016 WNBA Finals MVP
Lindsay Whalen, three-time WNBA Champion
Ayumi Murakami, Japan
Elizabet Reyes, Mexico
Joseph Ajayi, U.S. (Minnesota)
Gustavo Rodríguez, Panama
Jose Zapata, Venezuela
Armand Acrie, U.S. (Virginia)
Dikembe Mutombo, Hall of Famer
Muggsy Bogues, NBA Legend
Elena Delle Donne, Special Olympics Global Ambassador
Ruth Riley, WNBA Cares Ambassador
Franck Koffi, Cote d’Ivoire
Aimilia Kouliakioti, Greece (Hellas)
Sarah Distefano, U.S. (Florida)
Colt Harrison, U.S. (Louisiana)
Roy Menard, U.S. (Louisiana)
Butti Alsheezawi, United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi)
All 12 Special Olympics athletes will join the NBA family for a one-of-a-kind NBA All-Star experience with tickets to the week’s main events and opportunities to meet and greet NBA and WNBA players and legends.
“For the last six years, our athletes have had a unique opportunity to compete alongside NBA and WNBA players on a world stage, showcasing their skills and talents and forever changing the perceptions that exist for people with intellectual disabilities,” said Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics. “Our long-standing partners at the NBA are true believers in unified sports and we are incredibly thankful to their generous support of this sixth annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified® Basketball Game.”
For more than 30 years, the NBA and Special Olympics have partnered to bring basketball to Special Olympics athletes and events across the globe. In addition to clinics in China, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Russia, France, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Spain, England, Mexico and Canada, NBA Cares supports Special Olympics basketball tournaments and countless public service announcements and campaigns.
About NBA Cares
NBA Cares is the league's global social responsibility program that builds on the NBA's mission of addressing important social issues. NBA Cares programs and participants have provided more than 3.7 million hours of hands-on service and created more than 1,040 places where kids and families can live, learn or play in communities around the world. The NBA also engages more than 12 million youth annually, inspiring play and teaching the values of the game. NBA Cares works with internationally recognized youth-serving programs that support education, youth and family development, and health-related causes, including: Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Special Olympics, YMCA of the USA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLSEN.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968 , and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5 million athletes and Unified partners in more than 170 countries . With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, United Airlines, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Microsoft, Lions Clubs International, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, Safilo Group, and TOYOTA. Click here for a full list of partners . Engage with us on: Twitter , Facebook , YouTube , Instagram and our blog on Medium .