At 21 years old, Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Zach LaVine is one of the most dynamic young players in the NBA. He's a key part of a team that could be a force in a few years, and just two months ago earned his second straight victory in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, besting Aaron Gordon after several extra rounds.
What went relatively under the radar afterwards is how LaVine spent his winnings from the showdown. As reported by ESPN, the star player donated them to Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, Minn., which provides special needs education to roughly 100 hearing-impaired students. This week, he visited the school to see the fruits of that generous gift: a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Metro Deaf's new kitchen. LaVine's donation paid for the facility in part, providing students with a space to relax and eat outside of the classroom.
"It would be cool for them to be able to socialize and be able to hang out with each other, eat food together, instead of having to sit in class and eat and regular stuff," he said at the ceremony.
His partnership with the school is by no means random. LaVine took sign language in high school as opposed to a traditional route like learning Spanish or French. When he started playing for the Timberwolves, he sought out a way to use that knowledge to get involved with the local community, and that's how he got introduced to Metro Deaf. It didn't take long for the kids to warm up to him.
"The kids were like, 'He knows how to sign!' " said Susan Lane-Outlaw, the school's executive director. "That's the biggest thing. He knows American Sign Language. I think the kids connect with that. From there, it just blossomed."
Although LaVine isn't as fluent in sign language as he was in high school, he's been practicing much more now that he has a great use for it. And just the fact that he can do it at all immediately connects him to kids with whom he'd otherwise have difficulty communicating.
"It would be like the same thing if I saw one of them come to a basketball court and dribble between their legs and shoot it," he said. "I would be like, 'Whoa, wait a minute, I can relate with this kid.' "
(H/T: SB Nation)
Cover image: Creative Commons