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Inaugural Go Hoop Day to be celebrated in June

Rockets guard Chris Paul is among the ambassadors for the basketball holiday

HOUSTON — Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul will soon be wishing you a Happy Go Hoop Day.

Paul, fellow NBA players Paul George, Evan Turner and Emmanuel Mudiay, WNBA players Bria Hartley and Cappie Pondexter, and ex-NBA forward Jalen Rose are among the basketball ambassadors slated to support the inaugural Go Hoop Day on June 23.

The basketball holiday will consist of local activities, grass-roots events and digital initiatives in hopes of getting basketball lovers worldwide of all levels to play.

“I’m really excited about June 23rd,” Paul told The Undefeated. “There are all those different holidays. Why not have a hoop day? In the world of social media and all that stuff, my kids will come home and say, ‘Daddy, it was ‘Ice Cream Day?’ So why not have a day to celebrate the game of basketball? It’s a game that everybody plays and enjoys.”

Go Hoop Day was created by Justin Leonard, owner of Game Seven Marketing, after more than two years of planning. The sports marketing company specializing in basketball culture hopes that Go Hoop Day will live up to its theme “Ball Together” and that the estimated 450 million people playing basketball globally will unite and play on June 23. The basketball ambassadors are expected to secure free public access to the gyms and playground courts on which they grew up playing. Spalding also is expected to give away thousands of basketballs.

A hotline will be set up to enable participants to hear a greeting from a basketball star while responding with a message about why they love the game. Game Seven Marketing will choose fan stories and anecdotes for its social media page.

Go Hoop Day will be an annual event on the fourth Saturday of June.

“We’ve been working on and developing this idea of this global holiday for the game of basketball,” said Leonard, who played at Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “As we looked at the landscape of what was out there, it was eye-opening that it didn’t exist as big as the game of basketball is and as popular as it is. There was no real one day to celebrate it. There was an open space in the market for it, so we started building it behind the scenes the last two years before getting ready to launch it this summer.”

Paul said he loves the game of basketball “wholeheartedly” and that it has allowed him to see the world.

The former Wake Forest University star is making his first Western Conference finals appearance with the Rockets against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. After losing Game 1, the Rockets beat the Warriors, 127-105, on Wednesday night to tie the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

“We just played at a better pace,” said Paul, who had 16 points and six assists. “A lot of that helped, too, that we got stops. We defended better. We got out in transition. We still played our isos and stuff when we had them, and we just played with a little bit more thrust.”

The nine-time NBA All-Star hopes to be celebrating his first NBA championship on the inaugural Go Hoop Day. The 33-year-old learned the game of basketball from his father, Charles Sr., and was coached by him in some fashion through high school, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Paul plans to open five gyms in the Winston Salem-area on Go Hoop Day, including at his high school, West Forsyth in Clemmons, North Carolina, and at the Carl H. Russell Senior Recreation Center.

“I remember being on the playground, park, playing AAU basketball, I remember those road trips riding in the vans,” Paul said. “Man, I remember playing in Carl Russell and the Central YMCA Center. My dad coached my brother’s team and I was on another team at 4 and 5. I remember getting out of church on Sundays trying to get to the gym. I have my own basketball academy now back home to teach the game in comfortable circles.”

Leonard persuaded Paul to be an ambassador for Go Hoop Day during a meeting while the Rockets were on the road in Portland, Oregon, in late March.

“When you look at his journey and how he talks about the game, he is definitely a basketball purist,” Leonard said.

The 13-year NBA veteran said he was “grateful” that Leonard and Game Seven Marketing reached out to him and he is excited about the arrival of Go Hoop Day.

“I really believe 20 years from now we will be talking about Go Hoop Day,” Paul said. “It’s going to be cool to say I was part of the first day.”

Said Leonard: “We’re trying to get everybody out who plays or loves watching basketball.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.