NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and General Martin Dempsey spoke about the Hoops for Troops program at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night before the United States beat the Dominican Republic 105-62 in an exhibition game for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Silver said of Dempsey the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “For those of you who only cover sports, he is the principal military advisor to the President and our nation’s highest ranking military officer, so you can imagine what an honor it is for me to be here tonight.”
Around ten years ago, USA Men’s Basketball team Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski began a Hoops for Troops program with the U.S. Military. Silver said, “I’ll let General Dempsey speak to it, but he and Coach K have both West Point and Duke University in common, and then over time that Hoops for Troops program was brought to the NBA and has turned into a commitment to service in which the NBA has partnered with our military, all 30 teams, to perform community service in our communities throughout the league.”
General Dempsey said of Hoops for Troops, “I like to think that this partnership, and that’s what it is is a partnership, brings together members of the best military in the world with members of the best basketball teams in the world. I mean, I think it’s actually quite a remarkable partnership and one that makes sense to America because, thankfully, the military enjoys a great esteem among the American people, as do these athletes, so if we can bond together and commit to give back, I think that we’ll be doing a lot of good, not just for ourselves, collaboratively, but also for the country, and that’s our goal.”
Dempsey also announced something special for the U.S. team before the game. “Tonight, by the way, you’ll be participating in a ceremony where some of these members of the United States military will present a dog tag to each of these players who are going forward to the world championships to represent our country, and that’s what we do every day. We serve around the world, protecting our country, and we want the players to understand how much we appreciate the fact that they are giving of their time and energy and sacrificing some of their personal lives this summer to represent our country.
“The dog tag is an iconic symbol in the military in the sense that it represents courage and trust. We wear it around our necks wherever we serve. And on these particular dog tags we’ve emblazoned the cloth of our country, the flag of the United States of America, and with three simple words on the bottom: Leadership, service, and teamwork. And then on the back we have the player’s name and a little data about them, and on the other dog tag, there will be two, two to a player, we have the soldier, the airman, the marine or the Coast Guard next to his name so they can remember at this moment in time the United States military wished them not only good luck but also expressed our pride in them for representing our country,” said Dempsey.
Silver announced that, around Veterans Day of this upcoming season, all 30 teams have commitments to work with military bases in their communities. Last season, the Brooklyn Nets practiced at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge on Veteran’s Day.
Silver continued, “In addition to that, and I can’t say enough about what Coach K and General Dempsey have done together to motivate our players and to motivate our troops on behalf of our country. In effect, our USA Basketball team that you’ll be seeing play tonight is serving their country, and that’s something that General Dempsey has talked about and something that we’re enormously proud of.
“In addition, as many of you know, earlier this week, our players performed in essence an open practice for 4,000 members of the military and their families at West Point. I wasn’t there myself. I watched the footage, though, and I’ve heard it was just a fantastic event. And then here tonight at Madison Square Garden, we are entertaining 1,000 members of the military and their families as part of tonight’s exhibition game,” said Silver.
Dempsey spoke of NBA players playing internationally, “Could I actually say something about that? You’re right (speaking to the questioner), I feel like my own perspective might lend some context to this, not as an athlete. You could say I’m vertically challenged so there’s nobody out there that’s going to be threatened by anything I say in terms of basketball.
“But I still remember to this day the first time I put on the uniform, and on our utility or daily uniform over your left breast pocket, it’ll say “United States Army” or “United States Navy” or “United States Marine Corps,” “United States Air Force.” I still to this day remember the first time I put it on.
“I can only imagine the first time these kids — they’re not kids, these young men, pull that jersey on with USA emblazoned on the front. That’s got to mean something. One of the things the Commissioner has always said, the reason we have become so close, their organization and ours, is that they actually are committed not just to winning games, not just to financial gain. It’s a business, right; but also to developing these young men. And I’ve got to tell you, this is an extraordinary opportunity for them to develop as young men.”