With the 2016 Olympic Games wrapping this past month, the Philadelphia community can look back on the games in Rio with pride. Philadelphia athletes represented the United States of America in the world’s biggest festival of sport and returned home with medals around their neck. Two of those prestigious honors were brought home by two of Philadelphia basketball’s own.
Floor general and Philly Catholic League alum, Kyle Lowry, led USA Men’s Basketball in assists and was their standout defender on their undefeated run to gold. Despite coming off the bench for the duration of the tournament, Lowry was noted by his teammates and coaches as being one of the team’s unsung heroes and one of their best overall performers.
Lowry grew up in the heart of North Philadelphia and graduated from Cardinal Dougherty high school as a top student and 5-star basketball recruit. He furthered education close to home at Villanova University, spending two years under coach Jay Wright before being drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 1st Round of the 2006 NBA Draft. He has enjoyed a very successful ten years in the league, and currently stars for the Toronto Raptors as a two-time NBA All-Star and All-NBA Team member.
Off the court, Lowry still lives in his hometown with his kids and his wife, Ayahna, and his impact in leadership development in young communities is immense. In addition to his significant philanthropic work, he has partnered with local AAU basketball team, Team Philly, to bring in elements of leadership training and education to prepare young Philadelphia student-athletes for life when the ball stops bouncing. Upon his return from Rio, the Lowrys hosted a free basketball and leadership clinic for Philadelphia young people with an eye to giving back.
Friend of PYB and Dobins Technical High School graduate, Dawn Staley, was not on the court herself, but worked her magic as an assistant coach in guiding the US Women’s basketball team to gold as well. Staley’s strong bond with her players was apparent, and many reporters are tipping her to take over the head coaching reins from the departing Geno Auriemma for the next installment of the games in 2020.
After bursting onto the scene as a phenomenon of a high school student-athlete in Philadelphia, Staley has racked up so many remarkable achievements in her hall-of-fame career of playing, coaching, and mentoring. She is a 2-time NCAA National Player of the Year at the prestigious University of Virginia, 6-time WNBA All-Star, 5-time NCAA conference coach of the year at Temple University, 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist as a player, and former flag-bearer for our country at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Currently, Staley serves as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina.
In addition to her Hall of Fame enshrinement, Staley has received numerous honors and praise for her work in mentoring and empowering young girls and women to use basketball as a vehicle to help them reach their full potential on and off the court. The length to which she has helped grow the game of basketball in young female student-athletes and increase opportunities for female participation and excellence in the sport cannot be overstated.
Philadelphia natives, Lowry and Staley, have endured great success in Rio, in their careers on the court, and in the communities and lives of others off the court. They are perfect examples for the young student-athletes in Philadelphia. Their stories demonstrate the opportunities that the game of basketball can create for a young person as a student, an athlete, and a positive and engaged citizen.
By Isaac Bushnell, Corporate Intern