The Associated Press has a great read about some of the many NBA players with Chicago ties who are trying to help combat violence in the city. Among the players who routinely return to the city to talk with kids is Pistons Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas:
But for all the esteemed preps history Chicago has to offer – think names like Dwyane Wade, Tim Hardaway, Mark Aguirre and Candace Parker – perhaps no one ranks higher than Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, a product of the city’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Despite his professional rivalry with the Bulls honed by years of playoff battles as a member of the Detroit Pistons, Thomas makes regular trips back home to work with city officials on improving the area for children.
“I give them real information,” said Thomas, now the head coach at Florida International. “I let them know there are some unsafe places in your environment, but your environment isn’t a dangerous place all the time. If you seek the light, and stay away from the dark, you’re more apt to have a chance to make your mark on society.”
Thomas, the youngest of nine children, said his meals were “few and far between at times” due to the prevalence of drug abuse, alcohol and violence in his family, but he – like Anderson – used the court as a means to keep himself separated from negative influences.
“I think it’s safe to say that all of us who have grown in poverty and have come from poverty-stricken environments – especially urban poverty – sometimes you’re more lucky than good,” Thomas said. “You can very easily be an innocent victim.”
Among all of Thomas’ spectacular accomplishments as a player, his biggest one remains simply escaping the unbelievably impoverished and violent area he grew up in. Few people are in a better position than Thomas to speak to kids about what it takes to succeed and escape that type of environment.