Walnut Creek NBA star saves Thanksgiving in Oakland

I’ve never seen Dorell Wright out and about in my neighborhood, taking an early morning run or shooting baskets on the weekend at Parkmead Elementary School. Neighbor Pete Johnson says the Golden State Warriors forward is friendly and easy-going, but no doubt he probably won’t be around town too much, now that NBA players and owners have reached a tentative agreement potentially ending a 148-day lockout.

Wright kept busy during the lockout, arranging to preserve Oakland’s 20th annual Thanksgiving dinner and coat drive. Johnson directed me to an article in the Contra Costa Times. I also found a column by Oakland Tribune’s Marcus Thompson II, which said the event had been canceled due to budget cuts but Wright’s foundation, D. Wright Way Foundation, pitched in so that the city could serve turkey dinners to 2,500 low-income families, seniors and homeless people on Tuesday.

Wright’s foundation usually holds a turkey giveaway in whatever city he’s playing in, Thompson said.

Wright wanted to do something for the community after his foundation brought the situation to his attention. “He saw a need and, despite the uncertain circumstances with his job, still wanted to help,” Susan Shelton, manager of Oakland’s community housing services, told Thompson. “Dorell embodies the spirit of this event.”

Speaking of the far-reaching impact of the NBA lockout, KGO radio host Gene Burns on his November 14 show took NBA players and owners to task for letting the lockout stretch on for so long. Like me, Burns is not a basketball fan, and he wasn’t concerned about the impact of the lockout on the players’ pocketbooks. Rather, he was drawing attention to all the people, such as stadium concessionaires, whose livelihoods depend on professional sports games. Burns questioned whether owners and players had a moral obligation to work things out when cities stood to lose millions of dollars and thousands of people would lose work.

With this action and others, Wright and his foundation are defying the stereotype of the young and over-indulged professional athlete. According to the Times article, Wright said that when he was with the Miami Heat, he always admired older teammates, including Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning, who created foundations that had a positive effect on the community.

“I really admired that,” said Wright. “When I got to Oakland, I felt it was like a fresh start and it was time for me to do my own thing, put down my own footprint in the Oakland area.

Wright demonstrated a sense of community responsibility by donating to the turkey dinner. His foundation also runs a toy drive, scholarships and programs to support education and community activism.

I hope the season goes well for him. I’m sure Warriors fans hope so, too. And maybe one of these days, I’ll see him around.

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