Nate Robinson sat in the stands wearing a red hat. Jamal Crawford walked into the Juanita High School gym wearing a black winter coat with fur lining the hood and was joined by Brandon Roy.
Rodney Stuckey made an appearance at a Kentwood game, while Terrence Williams stopped by to watch Rainier Beach and Spencer Hawes sat in the front row to see Seattle Prep.
The NBA’s All-Star weekend was dominated by talk of Carmelo Anthony’s future and Blake Griffin’s ability to jump over a car and dunk, but local products spent some of their free time showing support for the programs and people who helped them along the way.
On Saturday afternoon, Crawford even slipped into the Rainier Beach locker room and gave a halftime talk to try and rally the Vikings.
When the players arrived, no announcements were made. They didn’t set up a table to sign autographs. Some people came up to say hello. Some found programs and scraps of paper, hoping to land a signature.
They were visible, but their presence didn’t distract from the games. When I wrote about homegrown players keeping the NBA alive in Seattle moments like these are what inspired me to tell the story.
Is there another area in the country where that many NBA players would spend a free weekend during the season in high-school gyms around their hometowns?
The willingness of players like Crawford and Robinson to be present whenever possible is good for the community. When these NBA players were growing up, they had the Sonics to model their game after. They watched guys like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. They grew up to become role models to a younger generation of players.
Their success and continued presence locally is one more reason the NBA belongs in Seattle. There are still great players growing up in the area. Over the next five or six years there will be more players like Peyton Siva — a SportsCenter top 10 mainstay — who graduate from a local high school and succeed in Division I programs.
But, at some point, the absence of an NBA franchise in Seattle will have an impact on a younger generation of potential basketball players. The link between local NBA players and the community is a special one, something that would, and should, continue to grow with a team in Seattle.