All-Star Weekend is a celebration, sure, but NBA players, coaches and staff want to use that international platform to help others too.
Friday afternoon after all of the players who are competing in All-Star Weekend addressed the media, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went and visited the Houston Food Bank as a part of the NBA Cares Day of Service. The Thunder takes community service extremely seriously back in Oklahoma City, so it should be no surprise that they made an extra effort to be engaging, fun and focused on doing everything they could in the time they had this afternoon.
"It's all about giving back to the community," Durant said. "Just to show the community of Houston that we care. Coming back and giving back is something that we love to do. it's always good to show people that you really care about them."
The Thunder pair was joined by James Harden and Chris Paul, while players like Jeremy Lin, Paul George and Luol Deng and former pros Robert Horry and John Starks could be seen throughout the building as well. And Westbrook were given the assignment of helping with the Backpack Buddy Repack program, which provides nutritious meals for kids who can't afford them. It was quite a sight to behold as the duo helped pack boxes alongside volunteers, children and Houston Food Bank employees. Nikki Jousset of the Houston Food Bank was thrilled that Durant and Westbrook made the time to support their cause and bring some smiles to the hardworking faces at the Food Bank.
"Initially when they came into the room, everybody stopped," Jousset said. "But once they saw them actually picking up boxes, stacking cereal and loading up boxes, everybody was in tune. Everyone did the same thing and continued to do what they came here to do."
While this afternoon's visit was a prime example, the Thunder's community relations department has maintained a presence in Houston all week, and will continue to be through the weekend. Elizabeth Sellers is representing the Thunder community relations department, helping with the various NBA programs going on in Houston to help those in need, while also picking up some great ideas to potentially implement in Oklahoma City.
Sellers was on site when Durant and Westbrook visited the food bank, and despite seeing Thunder players brighten kids' days in Oklahoma every week, she was still amazed at the impact they had on Friday in Houston.
"They were so excited," Sellers said. "Of course Russell was being silly like normal, but definitely both of them just jumped in there and got their hands dirty. The work that they're doing today is going to make a huge impact on the people of Houston."
At heart, players like Durant and Westbrook truly care about those who are less fortunate. Neither takes things for granted whether on the court or off of it, so making visits like the one this afternoon is second nature to them. Durant even spouted off a number of statistics to explain just how important the work at the Food Bank is to Houston, and thus why it was so exciting to be able to get involved.
"What they're doing here at the Houston Food Bank has been really good for families," Durant said. "Just to have this here, they feed 40,000 people in one week. it's unbelievable. They're doing so much for the community. I'm glad to be a part of it."