By John Denton, OrlandoMagic.com
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Already champions in the Central Florida community with their $1 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, more than 6,000 hours of community service and dozens of other charitable projects this past year, the Orlando Magic expanded their desire to help others and create change to Brazil on Thursday.
As part of the NBA Cares initiative, the Magic teamed with Amway and Brazilian basketball powerhouse Flamengo on a steamy Thursday afternoon to refurbish the basketball court at Escola Municipal Stantos Anjos. The unveiling of the new facility was attended by Magic Chairman Dan DeVos, Magic CEO Alex Martins and Amway President of the Americas Region Candace Matthews. Also, six Magic players – Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Channing Frye, Jason Smith, C.J. Watson and Devyn Marble – and a host of athletes from Flamengo put on a basketball camp for Brazilian school children.
“What I want to emphasize to the kids is school work and chasing your dreams,” said Oladipo, who gave kids tips dribbling past defenders. “I’m living proof that if you work hard enough anything is possible and that all of your dreams can come true. When I was in college, I was a great student and I did OK playing basketball. I worked hard in the classroom and I worked hard on the court. It all translates and I’m here to tell everyone that whatever you want to do – be a basketball player, a doctor, a CEO – the only way to accomplish that is through hard work.”
The Magic are in Brazil as part of the NBA Global Games 2015 and will face Flamengo in a preseason game on Saturday night. The team arrived Wednesday morning following an 8 ½-hour flight and has been busy seeing the sights from Copacabana Beach to the iconic statue of Cristo Redentor. And following a 90-minute practice on Thursday, the Magic showed their commitment to giving back with new basketball equipment and the skills camp for local kids.
Dan DeVos said he is especially proud with how the Magic have worked to make a difference in the community, while remaining committed to winning games on the court. That was the mission of his father, legendary owner Rich DeVos, when he first purchased the team 25 years ago, and the idea persists today – even when the team is thousands of miles away from Orlando in Brazil.
“Dad bought the team to see it make a difference and to see it happen in all different kinds of ways – ways we couldn’t even have anticipated back then – is amazing,” Dan DeVos said. “We’ve been able to help people in better ways than we ever thought we could. Maybe back then (25 years ago) we were thinking too small and just thinking locally. Now, with the Magic being here in Brazil, we’re thinking about how we can help others worldwide.”
Matthews, Amway’s leader in the Americas regions, said that the partnership between the NBA and Amway is ideal because both are global entities that try and affect change worldwide.
“It is wonderful having the Magic here playing in Brazil because Amway is a big sponsor of the Orlando Magic as well as opening our business now in Brazil,” Matthews said. “Seeing the partnership of both basketball and business come together in one of our markets, it’s absolutely fabulous for us.”
Fully aware that Brazil sends more tourists to Orlando than any other country – approximately 880,000 were in Central Florida last year alone – Martins has worked to expand the Magic’s brand in the sports-crazed nation of 210 million people. The Magic have seen their ticket sales to Brazilian fans grow to as high as 3,000 for some games last season, and Martins is excited about future business opportunities with the country.
On Thursday, Martins was only focused on what the Magic were able to do to better the lives of hundreds of Brazilian school children. The Magic’s mission – to be champions on and off the court, creating legendary moments every step of the way – doesn’t change just because the team is on a different continent, Martins said.
“Being able to help others is incredibly important to us and it’s one of our core values as a franchise,” Martins said. “To be able to do some of the same things that we’re already doing in Orlando while here in Rio is gratifying for our organization. To have an impact on the community by refurbishing this basketball court and giving back to the kids, it’s just a part of who we are as an organization. We’re glad that we can spread that internationally.”