(Courtesy: Phoenix Suns)
Devin Booker continues to prove that he is not only a star on the court, but off of it as well. After earning his first NBA All-Star selection this year, Booker is being honored with another achievement beyond the hardwood, being announced as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador.
From the “Devin Booker Starting Five,” an unprecedented initiative to donate $500,000 a year over the next five years ($2.5 million total) to Phoenix Suns Charities in support of Arizona children and families in need, to his continual outreach in the city of Phoenix and throughout The Valley, these philanthropic efforts reflect how Booker lives his life.
He tipped-off the Starting Five campaign in November as he personally surprised five local non-profits each with $100,000, including, naturally, the Special Olympics Arizona, who will use the funds to build their own facility for the first time ever. The facility will be completed with a Suns branded multipurpose room engaging coaches and athletes with everything from art to shooting hoops.
The NBA recognized Booker’s game-changing impact, as the 23-year-old received the November NBA Cares Community Assist Award.
“I hope the way I perform on the court can inspire people, but the things I do off the court is what I want people to take away from me,” Booker said.
The local community and beyond has also taken notice.
“Everywhere I go in Phoenix, I see Booker uniforms,” Head Coach Monty Williams said. “That says a lot about what this community and what children in general feel about Devin and his impact here. You feel it when you’re around town, when I’m at my kids’ school. Young kids around this town say ‘Book.’ They don’t say ‘Devin Booker’ they say ‘Book.’ That means a lot to this organization, but it certainly means a lot to these kids who look up to him.”
Booker’s benevolence can be attributed to his family and, more specifically, his younger sister Mya.
Mya was born 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, also known as DiGeorge syndrome, which is caused by a missing piece of chromosome 22. The deletion causes poor development of several body systems, which can result in mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. Witnessing Mya overcome these challenges, all while exuding more positivity than anyone else in the room, inspires Booker each and every day.
“Growing up with a sister that has to face new challenges every day has given me a new perspective for life,” Booker said. “I always wanted her to be the best at everything she did. She wanted to be a singer, artist, everything she did, I feel as an older brother, was to support to the best of my ability.”
The two share an unbreakable bond because to Booker, she is more than just a sister, she’s his best friend.
“That’s my heart,” Booker said. “That’s my love. That’s my best friend. I think just the way she approaches life every day. She deals with her challenges. She comes in with a smile every day, every situation that she’s in. She just finds the positive in it and that has just helped me throughout my whole career, my whole life.”
Due to his sister’s condition and his ever-continuing push for equality in the world, the Special Olympics has always been something near and dear to Booker’s heart.
“When it comes to Special Olympics I feel right at home,” Booker said. “I feel like I’m taking care of one of my little brothers or little sisters.”
Just as he supports his sister, Booker shares that same support for others dealing with intellectual disabilities through his involvement with Special Olympics. Since being drafted to the Phoenix Suns in 2015, Booker has been closely connected with Special Olympics Arizona through clinics across the Valley and developing friendship with local athletes.
“I’ve celebrated the accomplishments and witnessed the challenges my sister Mya has experienced as a person with intellectual disabilities,” Booker said. “She motivates me every day, and I’m humbled to be part of Special Olympics, a global organization with a mission to help spread awareness about the abilities of people with ID.”
Booker continues to grow these connections every day as he strives to grow closer with his community and while supporting those with ID.
In 2016, Booker invited his number one fan Jenna Warren, who has down syndrome, to join him on a trip to New York City for the Draft Lottery. He then followed that up the next year by surprising Special Olympic Arizona athlete Noah Smith with that same opportunity in 2017. In November of 2019, Booker announced Special Olympics Arizona as one of the organizations awarded $100,000 as part of the “Devin Booker Starting Five” initiative.
And now Booker and Special Olympics are taking it a step further, as Special Olympics International announced Devin Booker as their newest Special Olympics Global Ambassador on Thursday.
As a Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Booker will promote inclusion through sport, especially opportunities involving basketball while utilizing his reach with younger audiences through social media. He will continue to be involved with local and global opportunities as he has in the past, through activations with Special Olympics International, Special Olympics China, Special Olympics North America and Special Olympics Arizona.
“Special Olympics is honored to name Devin Booker as our newest Global Ambassador,” said Special Olympics International CEO, Mary Davis. “People like Devin who have a sibling with intellectual disabilities possess inherent empathy for the population we serve. We are lucky to leverage his passion to inspire others around the world to join our all-out effort to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities.”
Booker joins a star-studded list of Special Olympics Global Ambassadors, including his teammate Ricky Rubio as well as Andre Drummond, Damian Lillard, Elena Delle Donne, Dikembe Mutombo, Sam Perkins and Yao Ming.
“I’m proud that Devin was an All-Star this year, but being named Global Ambassador makes me feel super proud to be his teammate,” Rubio said. “This shows how much he impacts people’s lives beyond a basketball court. Congratulations and let’s make a big impact in this world. I’m with you!”
Tune-in today at 3pm ET / 12pm PT to #NBATogetherLive on NBA’s Instagram as Booker will join ESPN’s Maria Taylor to talk about his new Global Ambassador role with Special Olympics, his relationship with his sister and how he’s staying busy during the NBA hiatus.