Kings Count Thanksgiving Blessings
By: Alex Kramers
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Kings players share their appreciation for being in position to not only realize their lifelong dream of playing in the NBA, but to assist those less fortunate during the holiday season.
"I'm thankful for a lot," says rookie Ben McLemore. "Just having the opportunity to be a part of something great – the Kings organization – and also being an NBA player.
"I'm also thankful just to have the people around me – my family and my circle – it's just a blessing. Also, I'm thankful for just being a part of some kids' lives – just giving back to my community."
Acknowledging the guidance and support of family members, close friends and mentors, the Wellston, Mo. native aims to help rebuild the impoverished neighborhood where he was raised.
"I have people back home – my coaches (and) my cousins, too – helping me give back where I grew up," he says. "It just excites me a lot and it's just a blessing to give back to people I grew up with (whom) I always represent."
Center Hamady Ndiaye – who rhetorically asks, 'What is not to be thankful for?' while graciously looking back on his journey to the NBA – is equally elated to make an impact in the community.
"My foundation is called 'Giving Back,' so it's not just about the holiday – I do it on a regular basis," says No. 55. "I think it's really important for people in our position to really give back to the community – not just the community you play in (but) where you came from and … give opportunities to others who don't (have them) like we do."
Forward Patrick Patterson echoes a similar sentiment when it comes to putting a smile on the faces of local residents.
"(It's) very important (to give) back to those less fortunate, those who can't afford to put a meal on the table for themselves or most importantly, for their families," says the Kentucky product. "I gave out turkeys when I was in Houston, so hopefully, I can be a part of something here in Sacramento that gives back."
In addition to being thankful for the health and well-being of their respective families, No. 9 and his teammates cherish the unconditional support of Kings fans.
"(I'm thankful for) the diehard Kings fans who have fought throughout the years to keep their team safe and sound here in this beautiful city," says Patterson.
"I thank the fans," adds guard Marcus Thornton. "We owe it to the fans to be here – they're so loyal and passionate about this team."
Like many purple-and-black faithful, Kings players, coaches and broadcasters look forward to an annual Thanksgiving feast, contentedly reciting their favorite holiday dishes.
"Cornbread, dressing, mac and cheese, ham and turkey," lists No. 23, a Baton Rouge, La. native. "All the basics."
"Pumpkin pie, persimmon pudding – not many people know what that is, but it's common in Southern Indiana and I miss it greatly," explains Kings TV Color Analyst Jerry Reynolds. "I'm not a big turkey fan. I like Thanksgiving ham."
McLemore, meanwhile, is eager to treat his entire family to a scrumptious celebratory dinner.
"I have to say, the turkey, greens, macaroni and cheese – just having the blessing to say you have a meal in front of you," says No. 16. "It's going to be a special year for me this year, being in the NBA, then having my family come up and spend time with me for Thanksgiving."
Although the demands of the NBA schedule have forced many of McLemore's teammates to alter their traditional Thanksgiving plans, Kings players plan to maximize time with loved ones during the season of giving.
"Growing up, I would go home to my family in South Carolina … (we'd have) a huge gathering at my grandmother's house," says Patterson. "Throughout the years, all the way up until high school when I graduated, we'd do that every year. Then, once I got to college and basketball was starting to get more serious and the schedule would be more gruesome, I just pretty much celebrated with my teammates or if my family could make it out, (I'd) celebrate with them."
As Reynolds similarly recalls joyous extended family get-togethers in his native Indiana, the longtime broadcaster adds he perpetually looks forward to what lies ahead.
"I always figure the next one will be the best memory."