(photos By Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY –Nick Collison has been part of the Oklahoma City Thunder since day one. Because of that, the 15-year veteran is known as Mr. Thunder around the state of Oklahoma.
Yet, that is just one of the many things that have made Collison a local landmark for Thunder fans and those around the state. His community efforts are low key, personal and appreciated by the whose lives he touches.
In the 10 years Collison has been a part of the Thunder, he has developed a special connection with the community and fans that support the team. As he nears the final stretch of his NBA career, he knows how special that connection has been to him.
“It feels good,” Collison said. “For people to recognize that, it feels great. But that’s not why we do it. We do it to be able to help and give back. We want people in the community to know we care about them and for them to recognize that, it means it’s working.”
One of the reasons is because of the way he gets involved with events like his annual shopping spree, which was held Thursday at an Oklahoma City Homeland grocery store. It’s something he began the around the first year the franchise moved from Seattle.
“This is always fun,” Collison said. “I’ve done one of these a year for almost as long as we’ve been here. I think it’s great you can actually spend time with the family. It really helps families out Just give a little bit of a helping hand, they get all the food they need. Homeland then gives them another card to come back and do it again. I know a lot of families are on tight budgets and to get help like that really makes a big difference. People appreciate what I do on the court, but I’ve also been able to build quite a bit of a bond with the community.”
Collison was joined this year by the Rivas-Cabreras family from Oklahoma City. Nancy Lainez is a single mother who raises 14-year old Jesus, 12-year old Cristian, 10-year old Darwin, 8-year old Juan Carlos and 7-year old Andrea all alone. They were chosen for the shopping spree from Linwood Elementary from a list of families that struggle to make ends meet.
“I knew they had a need,” said Anne Edwards, the Principal Secretary at Linwood. “I knew that mom worked really hard and was trying to provide for the family. It has always been one of my goals to make sure all the kids get what they need. I know this will help them. Give them a good day.”
For Collison’s part, he gives the family $500 for them to get whatever they want out of Homeland. This year, the total bill came out to $549. It was matched by Homeland, who proved the family with another $500 to come back at a later date.
For the five siblings. who got to hang out with Collison for an hour going through every aisle in Homeland, they were not only able to get much-needed supplies, but also got to meet a member of the team they idolize.
Nancy Lainez was unable to make it to the shopping spree because she had to work. So she enlisted her niece, Sabree Frank, to take charge fill the three baskets with the items on her shopping list.
“It was amazing,” Frank said. “I’ve never been part of anything like this before. I think it was a good experience for the kids also. I was honestly surprised how good (Collison) was with them. Not a lot of people are good with kids. I thought he was really great with them. He was really nice and generous. I think it will be an experience they will remember for a lifetime.”
However, when it came to the shopping lists, the kids had other ideas.
“I will be interested to see how the mom feels about what they got,” Collison said. “The kids were filling in a lot of stuff. The good thing is they got that other card to come back if they missed some things on the list. Out of all the ones I have done, this is the most the kids have participated and they got away with the most junk food in the cart.”
Collison, a 2003 first-round pick, will be retiring when the season is over. Being a part of the community in Oklahoma is something he has treasured as well.
“I think playing basketball in Oklahoma City, you need the whole community to support you,” Collison said. “You need the city to support you pr it’s not going to work. We’ve had a ton of support here. We understand part of the job is getting out into the community and doing things for the people that support us. It’s one of the great things about playing in the NBA, you can have an impact on a lot of people.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com