In the 31-year history of the Timberwolves franchise, 245 players have worn the team’s uniform. Of those 245, 128 have only been in Minnesota for one season. Forty-four players played here for two years and only 35 have spent three years with the organization. The number of players who have played in a Wolves uniform for at least four years? Just 14. Thomas, the Timberwolves vice president of basketball development, cites those numbers when looking at the players’ involvement in, and connection to, the Twin Cities prior to an awakening this summer. For ever and ever, players have come into Minnesota and left without the real chance to connect, to immerse themselves in the people, places and things that have long made native Minnesotans proud to live here. The revolving door has made that difficult, and that is why he holds out so much hope for Josh Okogie.
Okogie has not even started his third season with the Wolves, and yet he has been perhaps the most active of the team’s players this summer. Okogie has found his voice in speaking up and participating in protests after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death in Georgia, where Okogie was raised. He has partnered with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph to get supplies to those in need after the riots ravaged businesses and the pandemic slashed jobs. His latest project is teaming up with Home Teams vs. Hunger, an initiative with the sports teams and media outlets in town partnering to raise money and awareness for Second Harvest Heartland and Minnesota’s five food banks.
Thomas has preached to players about investing in the people who come to the games to support them and how that effort can help them long after their playing careers are over. Okogie has been listening. “Josh is ingraining himself in the community,” Thomas said. “It creates connection, proximity, he’s getting close to the problem and people are getting close to him. And he plays hard. He’s a likable person. So the opportunity for him here is endless if he so chooses.”
The arrival of autumn in Raleigh’s signaled by the return of hometown hoops hero John Wall and his annual distribution of backpacks filled with school supplies to the community. “It’s the John Wall Family Foundation’s seventh year of hosting this event in Raleigh,” said Donal Ware of the Salvation Army, who said Wall has a similar program underway in Washington, DC.
“The John Wall Family Foundation does a lot for the Salvation Army in terms of us helping those in the community,” said Ware. “Not only do we have those, but we have the turkey giveaway that’s been going on for four years here.” Wall’s activity honors his mother, Frances Pulley, who died last December after a long battle with cancer. Ware called her “Aan absolute pillar in this community. But at the end of the day, the legacy still continues on.”
Codiom Isom, 27, is a product of the “Man The Bay” teacher development program from Urban Ed Academy, a San Francisco-based organization that aims to increase the representation of Black and Latino educators in classrooms. Since 2014, the Warriors Community Foundation has granted more than $300,000 to the program.
Before these social-distancing times, Warriors players visited Malcolm X Academy, making them a bit more than just Jeopardy!-style answers to the students. In 2018, the first year of the partnership between the school and the Warriors Community Foundation, former Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins visited the school. Instead of a quick pop-in, Cousins stayed the entire afternoon and played basketball with the kids. “He appreciated that this was a Black organization of Black students in a Black neighborhood,” Seriguchi said. During Cousins’ visit, a local news crew caught the 7-footer blocking a student’s shot. The clip went viral. “The kid loved it, ate it all up,” Seriguchi recalled.