JaVale McGee has had an up and down season. He often has up and down games. Almost every time he steps on the floor McGee does amazing things followed by lackluster mental lapses. Sometimes players like McGee — who’s play on the floor fluctuates so wildly and frustrates his coaches — make bad decisions off the floor as well. But McGee is not that type of guy.
Over the last several days the above photo has been making the rounds on Twitter, often with humorous commentary attached. While I’ll fully admit that there’s an element of comedy involved in seeing a giant photo of JaVale’s face on any motor vehicle, there’s also a large portion of this story that’s being overlooked. Because although it’s hard to glance at the above photo and be moved by JaVale’s ruminating countenance (given how goofy he is in real life), the fact is, his face is on that van for a reason, one he likely doesn’t get enough credit for.
This van is parked somewhere in Flint, Mich. Though many people may not be aware, JaVale McGee is actually from Flint. His mother was born there and raised JaVale there as well. As you can see, the van’s logo on the passenger door says, “Do The Right Thing Youth Center.” That’s the same organization JaVale McGee has spent countless hours lecturing and coaching underprivileged, poverty-stricken children about the values of school, learning and simply doing the right thing, so to speak.
“JaVale is a big asset to the city of Flint, period,” says Robbie Brown, founder of the Do The Right Thing Youth Center. “He comes back all the time and helps out with the kids at the old schools he used to go to. JaVale heard us making a lot of noise in the city of Flint and came back and gracefully helped us.”
According to Brown, JaVale has had a big hand in helping the Youth Center create its own AAU basketball team, which allows inner city youth to play in competitive tournaments across the country all while making stops at educational facilities like museums, colleges and court rooms along the way. JaVale’s also established his own customized system of standards for children of the Youth Center which aids them in achieving goals both inside and outside the classroom.
“He created the five lifelines to where the kids have to live up to certain guidelines in order to play on a team, in order to get a jersey, in order to get some shoes — all these things matter to JaVale,” says Brown. “He gets these kids when they’re in school and out of school. When they don’t turn in homework you get a lifeline taken away from you. If you’re not working hard at practice you get a lifeline taken away from you. And you get a total of five and at the end of the year he rewards everyone, especially those who have the most lifelines remaining.”
In addition to his work in Flint at the Youth Center, as well as in other areas of the city, JaVale also hosts an annual turkey giveaway in San Bernardino, Calif., where the city’s Boys and Girls Club feeds over 1,000 families and disabled veterans during Thanksgiving.
Moral of the story: JaVale will likely continue to make very questionable decisions on the floor. He’ll likely continue to get under Karl’s skin and his minutes will likely continue to stay limited until he becomes more cerebral with his approach to the game. And you can make fun of him all you want for that. And Shaquille O’Neal can feature him on Shaqtin’ a Fool from here till eternity. But next time you want to make fun of JaVale for having his photo on the side of a youth services van, just remember how many vehicles your photo is plastered on thanks to all the philanthropic strides you’ve made in your hometown.