SONV Athlete Experiences NBA All-Star Weekend

Special Olympics Nevada Athlete Rob of Las Vegas recently experienced the opportunity of a lifetime during the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

Rob was one of 12 Special Olympics athletes from around the world who took part in the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game, which featured Special Olympics players competing alongside NBA and WNBA legends. Unified Basketball brings together athletes with and without disabilities as teammates, encouraging inclusion, friendship and respect through a mutual love of sports.

“I liked getting the experience to bring back to my Nevada team,” said Rob. “I hope I made them proud. I learned a lot, especially from the Special Olympics coach, Anne Lynch, because she did a lot of different drills with us. We had to work very hard at practice.”

Rob’s team – the West – included Special Olympics athletes from Colorado, Canada, Virginia, Belgium and Texas. Unified Partners included former NBA players Dikembe Mutombo, Muggsy Bogues and Jameer Nelson; and WNBA players A’Ja Wilson (of the Las Vegas Aces) and Chelsea Gray.

Along with competing in the fun exhibition – which took place on February 14 and was streamed live on Facebook – Special Olympics athletes got to enjoy many of the festivities of All-Star Weekend, including the Celebrity All-Star Game, the three-point contest, dunk contest and the All-Star Game itself.

“I liked everything because we kept meeting NBA and former NBA players,” said Rob. “At each event we had really good seats to see all of the NBA and former NBA players like Anthony Davis, Shaquille O'Neal, and Charles Barkley. The best time was at the All-Star Game on Sunday because it was such a close game, the stadium was so big, and the crowd was really loud.”

Rob experienced a number of other fun activities during his trip, such as helping former NBA players coach with Special Olympics Illinois; visiting local museums; and exploring Chicago – even in the frigid and snowy weather.

He even learned some professional tips which he brought back to his local Las Vegas basketball competition.

“During the Unified All-Star Game, Muggsy {Bogues} told me to keep going to the post to score baskets,” he said. “I did that at my practices when I came back to Las Vegas.”

And it paid off. Rob’s team earned a gold medal at the Southern Nevada Basketball Regional on March 7, with the recent All-Star scoring a total of 49 points.