When the community section of Sasha Vujacic’s official website was launched, I knew it would be the perfect place to post this article, which was still just the spark of a notion in my mind. I’m sure you’ve all seen the commercials for NBA Cares, or have stumbled across the occasional blurb online about various athletes helping out in their communities. What continues to amaze me is that even though they have these incredibly taxing jobs and very little free time, almost all players in the NBA choose to do at least some community service.
For a championship contending team like the Lakers, their schedule can start in early October with preseason games and end in late June with the playoffs. In 2009, the Lakers played nine preseason games to add the 82 regular season games that every NBA team must play. If the regular season ends in April and you were to spread out the games evenly throughout those months then hardly two days go by without a game to play. Then you factor in things like practices, shootarounds, individual time spent in the gym, and family time, you start wonder when they have any time for sleep at night let alone community service.
If you’ve been following Sasha’s activity through his website then you know he occasionally holds things like essay contests and invites children from schools throughout Los Angeles to Laker games. At the season opener, there was a group of about 50 kids that were such winners who were privy to a meet-and-greet with Sasha right after the game. While being escorted to the designated location for the meet-and-greet after the game, I remember asking a Lakers representative if all of the players did things like this. He looked at me quizzically before responding that it was pretty much just Sasha.
Through the Lakers organization, the players have their pick of taking part in various community service projects. Fit for Life is one example. But Sasha really goes above and beyond this, using his website as a tool to engage kids throughout Los Angeles and supporting the Serbian Orthodox Church in Orange County. How many athletes show up to an annual informal dinner at a church to mingle and raise awareness? Probably not many.
At the Machine Meeting in November, I spoke to Sasha about his community service endeavors and asked him why he does it. His response was that it has nothing to do with publicity; he had just come from an event that we didn’t even know about. “It feels right,” Sasha explained to me as he emphasized that even he doesn’t realize how big of an influence he can have on people, but he loves the city of Los Angeles and wants to represent the team the best way he can. “It’s about the gesture,” he says and if he can help and bring people to the game that normally might not be able to then even better.
Sasha realizes that kids are “the biggest treasure” and people don’t realize just how much they could influence how those kids grow up. If he can do anything to help, and he can, then he will.