Felipe Lopez knows something about success. As a college freshman, before playing a single minute of NCAA basketball, he was splashed across the cover of Sports Illustrated in his St. John’s uniform. When he graduated four years later en route to the NBA, he was the third-highest scorer in the university’s history.
So when he shared some advice about hard work with the kids from our Beacon program, they listened—with rapt attention.
“Practice used to be harder than the game,” he said at an NBA Cares basketball clinic on Thursday. “When you practice something it gets boring. But the importance of doing something over and over and over is when you get in the game, you don’t have to think about it. You’ve mastered that skill.”
And basketball isn’t the only thing that requires effort, he added. School has to be a priority. When Lopez moved to the Bronx from the Dominican Republic at age 14, he didn’t speak English. He struggled to learn the language, but eventually succeeded.
“That’s why I’m standing in front of you right now,” he said, crediting his education for his post-basketball careLopez didn’t come just to talk, of course. After taking several questions from children in the program, he and nineteen NBA Cares volunteers ran drills at stations set up around the gym. The kids worked on agility, passing, shooting and rebounding—but judging by the smiles, it felt more like fun than work.
Mentoring youth isn’t just an occasional thing for Lopez. He’s been an ambassador for NBA Cares, the league’s community outreach initiative, since 2008. He also runs the Felipe Lopez Foundation, which works with young people in the South Bronx.
Charles Doyle, who manages the sports programs at the Beacon, said Lopez’s visit meant a lot to the children. “An NBA player from the BronxÑit makes it so much more relatable to them,” he explained.
“They feel like if he can do it, they can do it.”