By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC STRATCOM
During All-Star weekend, six wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans from Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Florida (CBWTU-FL) were invited to take part in the National Basketball Retired Players Association’s (NBRPA) Legends Celebration at the Walt Disney Swan Resort, in Orlando, Florida.
The Soldiers were invited to several events; the welcome reception, the Hardwood Pioneers Reflect discussion panel, a fashion show, and other events.
The festivities kicked off on Friday, February 24, with a reception where Soldiers mingled with guests, enjoyed a variety of food, got autographs, and took photos with NBA legends and celebrities.
“These are memories of a lifetime” said SFC Harrison Waithaka, a Soldier assigned to CBWTU-FL, who sustained injuries to his back, shoulder, and stomach from a fall after exiting a helicopter in Iraq. “We are very appreciative of the Warrior Transition Command for coordinating CBWTU-FL’s participation in this event.”
CBWTU-FL Soldiers were given the red carpet treatment. Cameras clicked continuously as Soldiers, took a multitude of photos with various NBA legends, WNBA players, and celebrities.
“They enjoyed a day full of notable NBA retired players—Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Erving “Magic” Johnson, Dominique Wilkins, and David Robinson” said SGT Brice Hamilton, who serves in WTC’s Adaptive Reconditioning Branch.
Coach Charlie Hatcher, co –host of Sports Inside and Out radio show, legendWali Jones, and Women’s Basketball League (WBL) legend Susan Summons hosted a live radio broadcast that included interviews with retired NBA legends Dale Ellis of the Boston Celtics, Lucius Allen of the LA Lakers, and Dick Barnett of the New York Jets.
Later that evening, when I did not think that the events could get any better, the Soldiers were able to participate in the Hardwood Pioneers Reflect discussion panel, where NBRPA paid tribute to its members and discussed the impact African Americans have on the game of basketball as part of the celebration of Black History month. Panelist included NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Earl Lloyd the first African American to ever play in an NBA game, and Dr. Richard A. Lapchick.
“The NBRPA Legends All-Star Celebration was amazing,” said Summons. “It’s so important to remember the sacrifice that former professional players made that are now legends of the game and sport, both men and women.”
“Our servicemen and servicewomen have made sacrifices to keep America safe.” I was honored to be a member of the U.S. Army, and I am proud to be a part of the historical movement of sports legends that have helped to pave the way for future sports legends” said Summons. “The history of sports gives you a look into the future of sports.” Summons added. “Remember and recognize the history and the women and men who helped to create it.”
Soldiers sat stage-side at the fashion show and met celebrities in the Legends VIP Lounge.
The next day, Soldiers went to the NBA All-Star Jam Session where they took part in interactive basketball activities, skill challenges, and autograph signing sessions with NBA players and legends.
“The Soldiers were the celebrities,” said Hamilton. “Many of them stated that last night was one of their best experiences ever.”