A Little Mayo Is Good For The Soul
O.J. Mayo shows love to underprivileged kids, and they show love back.
For a group of kids from the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, this week will be remembered for a long time. It will be the highlight of their month, if not their year. Their memorable event? A visit to Footlocker’s House of Hoops in Harlem with free posters, drinks and signed SLAM magazines. If that wasn’t enough, NBA rookie O.J. Mayo, fresh off a plane from Charlotte, made a lengthy appearance and elevated the event from a “great night” to what one girl termed, “[Her] most memorable night yet.”
The kids arrived about 45 minutes before Mayo, and were running all over the store, ogling shoes and shirts (those Hyperdunks are still so nice). At first, DJ Steph Floss spun background music for the kids. As they waited nervously for Mayo’s arrival, the kids, most of whom hailed from the Bronx, began making their way over to the makeshift dance floor, aka the hardwood floor near the entrance. As Jay-Z, Freeway, and other beats flowed over the sound system, an impromptu house party broke out, with the kids circling up and performing “Go Light” to the jeers and cheers of their friends. The energy was palpable, and even employees got involved in the mix. Rob, a long-time store employee, while dancing to the music said, “I love it when we show love to the community; this is what it’s all about.” Just when all the Vitamin Water (or “Power Juice” as one kid called it) and fresh copies of SLAM had been given out, the front door opened and a cool breeze walked in.
From the get, it was obvious: O.J. Mayo is one cool cat. As the kids swarmed him, Mayo kept a wide grin on his face. Making his way to his seat, Mayo signed everything thrown his way (assuming it wasn’t a product made by a competitor of Nike). Finally seated in his spot (behind the checkout counter), Mayo continued to sign free swag (and even the occasional PSP and hand). To his right, DJ Steph Flash played a little game with the kids called “OJrivia,” where signed gear was the reward for correctly answered trivia questions. (When asked how many points Mayo averages per game, one kid blurted out “35!”)
After a quarter-hour or so of doing saintly work, Mayo got his hands dirty and answered a few questions from SLAM just hours before his coach, Mark Iavaroni, was let go by the Grizzlies.
SLAM: Your first game you shot 5-20. Did you get a little nervous after that or…
O.J. Mayo: Yeah, I got a little nervous, but I was playing hard. I was taking shots I thought I could make.
SLAM: You scored 15 or more in 29 games, three of them are against San Antonio. You got something against the Spurs or what?
OM: (Laughs). Na. I don’t know. I guess I just get hot against them.
SLAM: In high school you played with Bill Walker, later with Patrick Patterson; any preference?
OM: I like them both.
OM: We’re all from West Virginia so—
SLAM: What’s it like for you; you’ve always been a winner; tough losing, eh?
OM: It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing—it’s like the worst thing about my NBA experience so far.
SLAM: Everyone talks about this rookie wall, you believe in that?
OM: A little bit, it’s tough.
SLAM: Yeh, you getting tired?
OM: A little bit. Yeh, beat up, too.
SLAM: You know, when you was like in 9th grade everyone was loving you, then they were hating you in 12th grade, now they’re loving you again; they’re back on the bandwagon what have you got to say?
OM: They love me they hate me. Just got to keep playing hard, keep trying to become a better player.
SLAM: Is this the first time you’re doing a Boys and Girls Club event or you do these around the country?
OM: Yeh, I do these all around.
Before Mayo walked out the door, he took off his fresh-out-the-box kicks (the Mayo’s of course), signed them, and gave them to a young kid who had somehow gone empty handed. As the kids screamed and yelled in the background, I got a moment of clarity and thought to myself, Everyday you read in the papers that player X got arrested for this and that, but where is the media when the players come down and give back to the community?
Truth is, SLAM was one of the only—if not the only—publication in the building. Other publications were the ones losing out, however, as Mayo brought Christmas to Harlem in January.