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NBA Cares brings fitness lessons to New Orleans charter school

500 youths across Greater New Orleans learn from the pros

The chatter of 100 students reverberated through the gym of Fannie C. Williams Charter School in New Orleans on Friday as they took a break from class to participate in the 2017 NBA Fit All-Star Celebration.

The clinic, held by NBA Cares with health care provider Kaiser Permanente, featured NBA and WNBA stars Dikembe Mutombo, Gary Payton, Swin Cash and Langston Galloway.

The students, all clad in blue shirts with the NBA Fit logo emblazoned across their chests, waited in the center of the gym floor with their legs crossed. A thunderous boom from the hall temporarily stopped all conversation as the school’s band, led by NBA Hall of Famer Mutombo, kicked off the event in true New Orleans fashion.

The two-hour event featured 10 stations at which the students practiced layups, free throws, learned stretching techniques and a host of other basketball drills. The athletes also offered information on how they’ve maintained their health on and off the court.

“I love NBA Fit because it teaches our young people how to take care of themselves, how to take care of their bodies no matter what age you are,” Mutombo said. “You have to take care of yourself, because your body is a temple, so we’re trying to teach them the value of life and we hope that they’re getting it.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity affects 12.7 million children and adolescents. Obesity is higher among non-Hispanic blacks (19.5 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (14.9 percent).

Mutombo, the 7-foot-2 former center who retired after 18 seasons in the league, stressed the importance of maintaining discipline even eight years after retirement.

“You have to continue to move, because as soon as you try to slow down too much, you’ll be waking up some days when your body don’t feel like getting out the bed,” Mutombo said. “Your muscles will be hurting. Your body is like a car. You cannot take your car, put it on a track for more than 300 laps and go and park it in your garage. The next day you’ll try to start it, your battery will be dead. You have to enjoy rest, but you still have to move.”

Fannie C. Williams was one of five schools to participate in the day’s All-Star celebration. The main goal for NBA Fit was to ensure the 500 youths who did participate across greater New Orleans not only learned healthy habits, but had fun while doing so.

“Seeing the smiles on the kids faces is the best part,” said NBA senior vice president of social responsibility Todd Jacobson. “There’s nothing more powerful than when you can get that smile and our players know that and they work very hard every day to make sure they can create that inspiration.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.