By Josh Cohen
Oct. 12, 2017
ORLANDO – Arron Afflalo is grateful to be back in an environment that means so much to him. His decision this past July to return to Orlando was as much about the people and the community as it was about his excitement to play on a team with so many young and promising players.
Afflalo, who averaged career highs in multiple statistical categories when he was in his prime with the Magic from 2012-14, said right after rejoining the team that the happiest time of his professional life was spent in Orlando.
So, it came as no surprise that the 11-year NBA veteran was delighted to participate in a community event devised to help local youth. Afflalo joined teammate Aaron Gordon, community ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw and other Magic volunteers at the Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Academy’s Jr. NBA All-Star Skills Challenge on Thursday at Memorial Middle School.
“I love to see kids having fun, just enjoying life and enjoying the moment,” Afflalo said. “That’s what it is about for us as athletes to give back and be reachable and be a great example for them.”
Gordon, too, relishes every chance he gets to visit kids who see him as a mentor. As the kids exited the gym, they all rushed to greet one of their favorite athletes with hugs, high fives and handshakes. AG also handed out Magic basketballs to each of the children.
“Events like this inspire me on the court just because all these kids know who I am and that’s so humbling,” Gordon said. “I understand what it’s like to be a kid and look up to an NBA player. It just inspires me to reach more people. It means the world to me.”
Thursday’s event featured a range of basketball contests with the students, including a 3-point shootout, a hot shot team challenge and a team relay skills challenge.
As part of the Magic’s continuing commitment to the youth of Central Florida, the team unveiled the Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Academy last season. The Magic Academy focuses on teaching life skills to youth through the game of basketball and also emphasizes the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership and health and wellness to accomplish their goals.
Through the formation of the Magic Academy the team supports the Jr. NBA platform. Jr. NBA is the league’s youth basketball participation program that teaches the fundamental skills as well as the core values of the game at the grassroots level in an effort to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents.
“The Orlando Magic Youth Academy is about developing the kids’ fitness and life skills and enjoying their moments here,” Afflalo said. “I’m happy for them.”
Gordon had one specific message he wanted to relay to kids about fitness and nutrition and that is to stay hydrated.
“The hydration is a huge part of it,” he said. “Just drink a lot of water.”
Both Gordon and Afflalo look forward to participating in more events this season that help children and the community as a whole. They truly adore every opportunity to see the smiles on the faces of kids and the positive vibes that emerge from these activities.
“That’s the best joy, just watching them smile, dance and have fun and enjoying this moment with their friends,” Afflalo said.