Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) athlete Rickie Kelly has been selected to participate in the first-ever NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports Basketball Game, which will take place as part of the 2012 NBA All-Star weekend festivities in Orlando. With support from The Coca-Cola Company, the game will tip off on Center Court at NBA All-Star Jam Session on Sunday, Feb. 26, and will feature 12 Special Olympics athletes from across the country, along with NBA Legends Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, Dikembe Mutombo and Sam Perkins, current WNBA players, and celebrities. NBA stars Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams will also participate in the event.
The exhibition game will combine athletes with and without intellectual disabilities as teammates to showcase the power of Special Olympics’ Unified Sports® program, which helps unite communities and foster an environment of acceptance and inclusion. In addition, as part of the NBA Cares All-Star Community Caravan, NBA/WNBA legends and players will host a clinic for local Special Olympics athletes at Jam Session immediately following the game.
Kelly has participated in SOWI basketball, bowling and athletics for more than five years. He has competed in more than six State Competitions and was selected to play for Team Wisconsin at the 2010 National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. On September 24, 2011, Kelly received the SOWI Male Athlete of the Year for the Milwaukee area. This award is given each year to the Special Olympics male athlete who best displays leadership skills and good sportsmanship. According to SOWI coach, Annie McGinnity, who will travel to Orlando with Kelly, he is a team player who inspires his teammates both in victory and defeat.
“Rickie is a fabulous motivator. He rallies his teammates to come to practice and does a great job of recruiting players,” said McGinnity, who has coached for more than six years. “He serves as a wonderful role model and encourages his teammates to make positive choices.”
In a few weeks, Kelly will have an opportunity to play with some of his role models from across the country.
“When I was ten I saw Kobe Bryant playing on TV and I wanted to be just like him,” said Kelly. “When I play basketball, I feel electric and elevated. I feel free from negativity.”
“The NBA is excited to expand our longtime partnership with Special Olympics by hosting the Unity Sports basketball game as part of our NBA All-Star festivities,” said NBA Senior Vice President of Community Relations Todd Jacobson. “The NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports Basketball Game is about having fun, promoting fitness and bringing people together.”
“We are proud to have this unique opportunity to show the world the incredible talents of our Special Olympics athletes, playing alongside basketball legends from the NBA and WNBA,” said Peter Wheeler, Special Olympics’ Chief Officer of Strategic Properties. “This is another great moment in our long-standing partnership with the NBA and we hope that this Unity Sports basketball game shows NBA fans the power of sports to unite us all.”
NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports Basketball Game roster:
Marc Campbell, ON
Keyuana Davis, FL
Kerri Gilroy, MA Steve Lynn, OK
Rickie Kelly, WI Anthony Nunn, MN
Andre Larry, FL Sean Vigil, UT
Tony Payne, TN Jennifer Wardlow, NC
Jesse Burnett, CO
Jackie Buxton, OR
Steve Lynn, OK
Anthony Nunn, MN
Sean Vigil, UT
nnifer Wardlow, NC
These 12 Special Olympics athletes and their families will be treated to an unforgettable NBA All-Star experience including dinner with an NBA legend, in-arena recognition at NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, and tickets to the NBA All-Star Game.
The NBA’s global partnership with Special Olympics began more than 30 years ago when the league helped to introduce basketball as a new sport to the organization. The NBA has since provided sponsorship to Special Olympics basketball tournaments, created public service announcements featuring NBA players, and participated in major Special Olympics events. In addition, the NBA's Basketball without Borders program has featured international clinics for Special Olympics athletes in China, Puerto Rico, Russia, France, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Spain, and Mexico.