by Nada Taha
He may have been over an hour late, but for the kids at Inglewood High School, Paul Pierce was worth the wait.
It didn’t hurt that they had an Xbox 360 Kinect station, a live DJ and basketball hoops to keep them occupied. And he did have a legitimate excuse – he just finished participating in interviews with the media at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend.
Pierce rushed to his hometown high school in Inglewood to a gym filled with parents, kids and celebrities for his first ever Health and Fitness Festival. Part of his Truth on Health Initiative, the nine-time All-Star stopped by in between the chaos that was All-Star weekend to hang out with some local kids, teach them about health and unveil a fully refurbished storage-space-turned-locker-room.
The kids were busy playing basketball and dancing, and I was busy hanging out with McLovin’ aka Christopher Mintz-Plasse. A huge Boston Celtics and Paul Pierce fan, he didn’t hesitate to talk trash about the Magic once he found out I was from Orlando. He wasn’t the only celebrity on deck supporting Pierce’s health initiative. Bobb’e J. Thompson (the little kid in the movie Role Models who needs some Orbitz gum for his dirty mouth), Maria Menounos and R&B singer Jeremih were there too.
You could tell that officials with Inglewood High were genuinely thankful for what Pierce was bringing to their school.
“I feel great for him to come back here and give back to the community. That just shows he still remembers where he’s from and obviously still cares for the kids and that’s great,” boys’ basketball assistant coach Zach Carter said.
Pierce made his rounds to different stations where kids were learning fitness routines, doing yoga, dancing and playing basketball—all in an effort to teach them how to stay fit and healthy. Festival sponsor Bing donated 600 Paul Pierce Activity Watches that track daily exercise and the school got a state-of-the-art, pretty dope locker room complete with dumbbells, flat screen TVs and a lounge that was designed by HGTV power couple Robert and Cortney Novogratz.
You could see that despite how hectic it was to get him there in the midst of all his other All-Star obligations, Pierce was enjoying himself while stopping for pictures and fooling around. He was back home and he was giving back.
“I always love coming back here to this gym. There’s something special about it,” the Truth said. “Coming back to my high school, seeing the kids smile. I felt the same way growing up when I was a kid and watching Harold Miner (former Heat & Cavs player in the ’90s) because he came from here to the NBA and he was an inspiration to me.”
For the kids, it was a chance to see where they could one day end up. That it wasn’t far off to think that they could maybe play for one of the most storied franchises in the NBA averaging 18.8 points, 5 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
“For him to come back here to his old high school, his old neighborhood to give back to the kids that are basically growing up where he grew up shows that he’s off in the NBA, but he still cares about his community,” Carter said. “And it’s important for us because it just shows what we sent off to the League.”
He may have gotten the biggest boos from the crowd and he may not have had a big impact in the All-Star game Sunday, finishing with just six points and two assists in the 148-143 loss to the West, but Pierce definitely left the kids at Inglewood with something to think about.