Trae Young did more than wow a nation of fans at the NBA All-Star festivities in Chicago last weekend. He added to a surge of fundraising and recognition of the joint effort to fight prostate cancer and raise awareness with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League for their Black History Month Assist Challenge.
For the second straight year, the PCF and Young’s team, the Atlanta Hawks, are spearheading a campaign throughout February to shed light on the disproportionate risk of prostate cancer for African American men, to promote prostate health screenings, steer men to resources on the issue and raise money for research.
The Hawks Foundation is donating $250 for every assist the team records, and because Young was named an All-Star starter and participated in the Rising Stars game for first- and second-year players, the foundation decided to donate the same for every assist in those two games, too.
“That came up as we saw the fan voting wrapping up and knew (Young) was going to be a starter. It made sense,’’ Hawks foundation executive director David Lee said with a laugh. “It was a very easy decision to arrive at.’’
From one team last year, seven NBA teams (Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, Indiana, Philadelphia and Phoenix) and one NHL team, the New Jersey Devils, are hosting campaigns this year. The Devils joined in part because they and the 76ers have the same owner, Josh Harris. Since assists in the NBA and NHL are so different, the Devils are matching whatever the Hawks raise this month.
“One owner we spoke to had said three teams [participating this year] would be a huge success, and we got eight,’’ said PCF chief operating officer Christine Jones. “I’m hoping next year we get into all 30.’’
Jones had seen the long-term success of the PCF’s Home Run Challenge with Major League Baseball each June, not only with fundraising but also with a measurable increase in screening requests that followed.
“Even though they are the opposite demographic, we thought we could get the same results with a collaboration with the NBA,’’ Jones said, noting the 75 percent of NBA players of African descent and the league attracting the largest black viewership of any major pro sports league.
“It’s an opportunity to use basketball to push and grow the message,’’ Lee said. “We felt like our basketball lens would have a significant impact on it.’’
Atlanta was a natural to kick-start the campaign in February 2019. Hall of Fame player Grant Hill, a member of the ownership group, filmed a public service announcement with his father, NFL legend Calvin Hill, and the assist challenge raised $73,750, with the owners matching it to bring it to $150,000. According to the Hawks, the 30-second spot was viewed on social media more than 93,000 times during the month.
Grant Hill recorded a PSA for this season as well. At the All-Star break, the Hawks were on pace to top last year.
And with Young’s seven assists in the Rising Stars game and 10 in the All-Star Game, the chances are even greater.