Air Force Featured Stories

Military kids learn life lessons from NBA pros

  • Published
  • By Carole Chiles Fuller
  • Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AFNS) -- Seventy-five Defense Department youth from various military installations here learned life lessons and basketball skills from NBA legend Bruce Bowen and San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills during a Junior NBA clinic at Cole High School on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Oct. 19.

Bowen, an outstanding defensive player who earned three championship rings with the Spurs, and Mills worked out alongside the young participants, demonstrating skills for offense and defense, and bringing smiles to their faces.

“It’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to have an impact on some of the kids of our military servicemen and women,” Bowen said.

Bowen has been active in community service, promoting fitness for kids and families, in San Antonio since his days as a player from 2001-2009.

“I learned from (Spurs coach and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate) Gregg Popovich … it’s better to help others, and everything else will come in due time,” Bowen said. “When you have a chance to impact a kid’s life, it’s fantastic. They’re able to take things that you taught them and give it to others. It’s kind of a circle of life so to speak, as far as the continuous giving effort, especially in this great city of San Antonio.”

Mills, who helped the Spurs win the 2014 NBA championship, said he was thrilled to present the idea of lifelong fitness to the youth, and spread joy through the sport of basketball.

“You can see how much fun the kids are having, and the smiles on their faces,” Mills said. “It’s all about the young kids and having a healthy lifestyle. That’s why I’m here today, to share the healthy choices that I have made in my short career. These are the kids of the future, so being here is a big deal for me.”

Bowen noted that basketball can teach valuable life lessons, including the concept of resiliency.

“There are different times in the game of basketball where you’re down by 10 with two minutes to go, and you start seeing the character of some teams that aren’t prepared,” Bowen said. “I think with Gregg Popovich and the things that he learned at the Air Force Academy … it’s not about being down and out in those moments as long as there’s time on the clock.

“So you transfer that into our society today. Maybe you didn’t start out so well during the first half of the school year. But you can still finish up strong,” Bowen continued. “Those are the little lessons that I think basketball and other sports provide. When kids understand that all I have to do is my best, that’s good stuff. That’s a good recipe for us to have something truly special in life.”

The clinic was one of many held across the U.S. the week of Oct. 19 to help the NBA tip off its expanded youth basketball participation program. However, it was the only one scheduled at a military installation during tip-off week, said Phaethon Bolton of NBA Social Responsibility, who helped organize the event.

“All we’re doing is saying, ‘Thanks for your parents’ serving,’” said NBA clinician Frank Lopez of Lakeland, Florida.

"My son, Jarvis, really enjoyed the interaction with new kids and the drills, but wished the clinic was longer,” said Jarvis Pettaway, a human resources specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “It's really special (when players) choose the military community to volunteer their time.”

The children of Chief Petty Officer Ferdinand Ajel, with the Navy Recruiting District, San Antonio, said they enjoyed learning more about playing defense. Alex, 13, Kalea, 11, and Noelani, 10, also said they had great time.

“It was nice. Everyone was so enthusiastic about it,” Alex said.

The Spurs mascot, the Coyote, and members of the dance squad, the Silver Dancers, added to the fun atmosphere.

The NBA is promoting the Junior NBA to installation leagues as part of a Commitment to Service initiative between the NBA and DOD, which focuses on having athletes and service members work together to create a culture of service in their communities and promote healthy living, successful life transitions and good leadership.

Air Force families can learn more about healthy living, to include planning healthy meals and ways to get fit together at